Students sue CSU over lack of refunds for mandatory campus fees

Class action lawsuit demands prorated refunds


Kendra Rivera-Molina

A Sonoma State student filed a lawsuit against the CSU on behalf of all students system-wide for withholding refunds to students who are no longer utilizing the services they were charged for. Graphic made in Canva.

Jesse Tapia

A class action lawsuit was filed Monday against the California State University system, demanding prorated refunds for mandatory campus fees that provide services no longer available to students due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lawsuit was filed by Sonoma State student Akayla Miller on behalf of all people who paid fees for the spring 2020 academic semester or quarter at any of the 23 campuses within the CSU system, according to the complaint

“CSU’s decision to transition to online classes and to instruct students to leave campus were responsible decisions to make, but it is unfair and unlawful for CSU to retain fees and costs and to pass the losses on to the students and/or their families,” the complaint said.

According to the complaint, Miller and other CSU students paid anywhere between $847 and $4,201 in mandatory campus fees for the 2019-2020 academic year.

At Sacramento State, mandatory campus fees per semester include:

  • $73.50 Associated Students, Inc. fee
  • $154 Intercollegiate Athletics/Spirit Leaders fee
  • $23 transportation fee
  • $16 recreational sports fee
  • $406 University Union/WELL fee
  • $25 Health Facilities fee
  • $8 instructional related activities fee
  • $129.50 Student Health & Counseling Services fee
  • $3 The State Hornet fee
  • TOTAL: $838

The complaint states the lawsuit was made for those who can no longer benefit from the services provided by the mandatory campus fees, and did not receive a prorated refund. 

Miller referred The State Hornet to her attorney when asked for comment via Twitter. 

Mike Uhlenkamp, a spokesman for the CSU Chancellor’s office, said the complaint misstates the facts, as the CSU continues providing services to students after instruction was moved online.

Campuses continue to operate, and many personal services are now provided remotely, such as counseling, advising, faculty office hours, disability student services, and even telehealth medical care,” Ulhenkamp said.

On March 19, the CSU issued its Interim CSU Refund Policies for Tuition and Fees, informing students which refunds can be provided depending on the category of the fee. Ulhenkamp said requests for refunds are already being processed. 

“CSU will vigorously defend against this suit,” Uhlenkamp said.

The federal government’s response to help the CSU cover the costs associated with disruption of the pandemic is over $350 million from the $14 billion in stimulus funds set aside for higher education. 

Nicole Chatmon, a construction management major, said via Reddit that students are paying for services that they don’t have access to, like The WELL and the University Union along with sports being cancelled for the year.

“I’m not asking for a full refund just a prorated amount like they did for the parking pass, housing, and meal plan,” Chatmon said.

In a livestream interview with CalMatters April 2, CSU Chancellor Timothy White said that the only refunds students would be getting would be from parking, meals and residence halls. 

RELATED: Sac State to award emergency financial aid grants to students

Sac State President Robert Nelsen announced Monday that students who were eligible to fill out a free application for Federal Student Aid would be receiving emergency financial aid from funds that Sac State has allocated through the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security Act. 

Additional reporting by news editor Kendra Rivera-Molina. This is a developing story that will be updated as more information becomes available.