Students sue CU, CSU after fees not refunded when coronavirus hit

Colorado students are suing their universities, arguing they are due refunds for student fees that cover services they can no longer receive due to the coronavirus pandemic shutting down most recognizable aspects of campus life.

Two class action lawsuits filed against University of Colorado’s Board of Regents and Colorado State University’s Board of Governors this weekend said students pay fees separate from tuition that enable access to events and services such as the student recreation center, bus passes, athletic events and arts performances.

“A lot of this just is not accessible right now while the lockdown is in place,” said Igor Raykin, a local attorney representing the students. “That’s not a problem. Nobody has an issue with the fact that they’re shutting down the campus right now…The issue is if they pay for a lot of things they can’t access, they should be getting their money back for those things just like any business would do.”

Ken McConnellogue, CU spokesman, said courses continue to be delivered remotely. Regarding fees, McConnellogue said students still reap the benefits of services their fees paid for including a 24/7 nurse hotline, virtual fitness classes and counseling.

“Additionally, student fees cover debt service on some facilities, which students voted to approve,” McConnellogue said.  “Fees also pay salaries and benefits for staff who provide ongoing maintenance, and whose work will help ensure readiness to reopen at the appropriate time.”

CSU declined to comment on pending litigation, but university spokesman Mike Hooker pointed toward a March statement issued by CSU Provost Rick Miranda. Miranda said fees fund a package of services, some of which are still available virtually like the library system, mental health services, student legal services and career advising.

Miles Levin, a 21-year-old CU Boulder student, who is one of Raykin’s clients, paid more than $650 in fees when enrolling in the spring 2020 semester, the lawsuit said.

“It’s not about me being some selfish college kid who has all the expenses paid for,” said Levin, who expects to pay $80,000 worth of student loans for his college education. “I am taking out a large chunk of change to further myself for a college degree, so I think it’s only fair that I can see some of that money come back to me and be utilized in an effective way since it’s not being used for that expected cost and benefit.”

Many of Colorado’s colleges and universities began an abrupt switch to online education in March.  CU and CSU, among other institutions, kept their dorms open to serve the students with nowhere else to go, but spaces normally bustling with activity, like recreation centers, were no longer open for business.

In the past month, CU took a $44 million hit refunding impacted students’ housing and dining costs and paying hourly and student employees throughout the crisis. CSU paid out $19 in rebates for student housing and dining amid the pandemic.

Levin acknowledged that the situation was not ideal for anyone, but said the fee refund was an issue of fairness to students.

“Students aren’t getting the same services that they have paid for while enrolled this semester,” Levin said. “It’s unfair for students to be charged those fees that they’re not receiving the benefit of anymore.”

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