Jury finds Cal State acted reasonably in 2009 tuition hikes

San Francisco jury finds Cal State system did not act unfairly when trustees voted to impose two fee hikes

A jury Thursday found that California State University did not act unfairly when trustees voted to impose fee increases on students twice within a few months.

The San Francisco Superior Court trial stemmed from actions taken in 2009, when trustees approved a 10% tuition hike in May, then an additional 20% hike in July.

The fee increases came amid severe budget cuts brought on by the recession, which also forced faculty and staff furloughs and slashes in enrollment.

Several students sued the university system for breach of contract and violating its duties of good faith and fair dealing, arguing that they had already paid fees and enrolled for the fall 2009 term and should not have been assessed the second fee hike.  

In 2011, a Superior Court judge granted the case class-action status on behalf of nearly 200,000 students at 19 campuses. Judge John E. Munter ruled in 2014 that CSU did not breach any contracts, but sent the case to a jury to determine whether trustees acted reasonably and in good faith when increasing the fees.

The jury voted 9 to 3 that it did.

"Today’s verdict affirms the California State University’s commitment to student success and the fiscal stability of the university for future generations of Californians," Framroze Virjee, Cal State's executive vice chancellor and general counsel, said in a statement.

"While raising tuition fees is always a decision of last resort," he continued, "the CSU acted reasonably and responsibly to preserve academic programs and minimize disruption to students completing degree programs."

James Finberg, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said another piece of the suit that  involves a graduate business professional fee hike is still to be determined.

"We're disappointed with the jury verdict but optimistic that we will eventually prevail on appeal," he said. 

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