UC Must Pay Back Former Students

State Supreme Court Rejection Will Cost UC $40 Million; Fee Increases Led to Suit

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The University of California will have to pay about $40 million back to former UC professional school students after the California Supreme Court threw out the university's appeal yesterday to review a previous case contesting fee increases.

Filed by eight UC professional students in 2003, the original lawsuit stipulated that the university breached its contract with more than 50,000 professional students by promising to freeze fees and later raising them.

The San Francisco Superior Court ruled on the original case in March 2006 and decided that the university owed $33.8 million to former UC professional students. The university then brought the case to a San Francisco appeals court, which upheld the original ruling.

The case involved three groups of professional school students, including around 9,000 students enrolled in a professional degree program before 2002. The other two groups were composed of nearly 48,000 enrolled students who were billed for either spring or summer 2003.

Yesterday marked the conclusion of the legal battle after the state Supreme Court shut down the university's final chance to appeal the original ruling.

Danielle Leonard, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said she was not surprised by the state Supreme Court's decision to dismiss the appeal.

"I believed that this was what the Supreme Court would do," she said. "I don't think the university gave the Supreme Court any basis to overturn that."

But UC spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez said he had believed that the Supreme Court would at least review the case.

"We were disappointed," he said. "We hoped that the court would review the case."

The Supreme Court did not and is not required to give any reason why they decided not to hear the case, Vazquez added.

Due to post-judgment interest attached to the money, the university now owes the students about $40 million instead of $33.8 million, said Andrew D. Freeman, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

Freeman said he does not know when the money will be returned to the former professional students, but said he hoped it would occur within the year.

He added that financial aid also increased for some students as a result of fee increases, thereby complicating how much the university would owe individual students.

"We are still trying to work out as accurately as possible on a student-by-student basis how much individual

students should be receiving," Freeman said. "Figuring out how much of the financial aid went up as a result of the fee increases is a very difficult calculation," he said.

Leonard said the ruling represents a huge victory for students and said she hopes the university will now be more cautious before implementing fee increases.

"For the students in the class, it also indicates what they believed all along," Leonard said. "That the university made explicit promises about the cost of education and started violating these promises, ... that these students have rights under the law and that the university must hold to its word."


Vincent Quan is the asssistant university news editor. Contact him at [email protected]

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