As part of today’s story about the various fees college students are paying, the people I talked to had an interesting example they say helps illustrate the unusual relationship between students and the University of California:

Following the midyear state budget cuts in 2003, the university raised its fees for students in the middle of the year to make up for the lost general fund revenue. Some of them filed a class action suit, arguing that the sudden increase represented a breach of contract by the university. Last spring, a San Francisco judge agreed, ordering the university to issue refunds.

Though the appeal is still pending, the university is getting ready to makeup for the estimated $20 million in lost revenue — by raising fees on current students. Starting next fall, all UC students will pay a $60 “surcharge” that will go toward the repayment of the judgment for the former students.

Students say the new fee violates the spirit of the ruling: The university broke its contract and charged students too much, so to make up for it, it’s going to charge some other group of students more, they say. University of California, San Diego, student leaders are particularly irate, because UCSD had relatively few students that were covered by the class action lawsuit. So the new fee, to them, essentially represents a transfer of money to other campuses.

UC Office of the President spokesman Ricardo Vazquez said the university feels their pain:

As you know, the lawsuit is still in the appeals court. And yes, it is unfortunate that new students, as a result of the lawsuit, will receive these increases. But, given the financial impact of such an award on the university, the (UC Board of) Regents felt that the university had no choice but to increase the fees to protect the quality of the professional programs.

VLADIMIR KOGAN

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