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Florida university system fights fee refunds case

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The state university system is asking a Leon County circuit judge to toss out a potential class-action lawsuit in which students are seeking partial refunds of fees they paid for the spring semester.

The lawsuit, filed in May, stems from universities shutting down their campuses because of the coronavirus pandemic and moving to online classes.

The plaintiffs argue they should receive partial refunds of such expenses as activities fees, athletics fees and transportation fees.

But in a motion to dismiss the case filed last week, attorneys for the university system’s Board of Governors argued, in part, that the system’s fee structure is established in state law.

“Importantly, nowhere in the fees rubric established by the Legislature is there any provision that sets out a prorated refund of fees if an enrolled student contends they have not used a particular service or engaged in a particular activity because they are not physically on campus,” the motion said. “Student fees are used for the benefit of all students throughout a particular institution. In addition to being totally unworkable, it would defeat the statutory framework … if students could select which fees they want to pay based on which facilities, activities or services they may or may not use during their enrollment at a university.”

The lawsuit is one of numerous cases filed in Florida and other states seeking refunds for students. Unlike many other cases, it does not seek tuition refunds.

The named plaintiffs in the case are University of Florida graduate student Anthony Rojas, Florida Atlantic University undergraduate Amanda Heine and Florida Atlantic graduate student Jordan Sperling.

“FBOG’s (the Florida Board of Governors') decision to transition to online classes and to request or encourage students to leave campus were responsible decisions to make, but it is unfair and unlawful for FBOG to retain fees and to pass the losses on to the students and their families,” the lawsuit said.