By Malinda Larkin
Posted June 18, 2010
More than a hundred University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine alumni are still waiting to hear whether they will receive a refund from the university.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge John Munter ruled March 11 that the University of California needs to pay $38 million in refunds and interest to former students who entered the university's professional schools in fall 2003, according to news reports. The ruling could potentially impact about 2,900 ex-students, of whom 120 are veterinary school graduates.
Prosecutors for the class action lawsuit, filed in 2007, had successfully argued that these students' fees were raised thousands of dollars despite the university's pledge to keep them unchanged.
The judge said the university made that promise in official fee guides on its website starting in 1994. UC told incoming students that the extra fee they paid to attend a professional school would remain unchanged until they graduated, and that fees would be increased only for new students.
That statement was removed Aug. 25, 2003. Over the next three years, UC increased professional school fees by thousands of dollars and billed those amounts to continuing students as well as new students.
"We do believe the court made errors in the decision, and the university believes we never made any promise to these students that the fees would stay the same while enrolled in their professional programs," said Ricardo Vazquez, spokesman for the�UC�Office of the President. "The statements made in some fee guides from a previous year applied only to that year."
The university is now "seriously looking" into an appeal, Vazquez said. However, if the ruling stands, it could be a costly blow to UC, which has indicated it may further increase fees or reduce programs to bear the cost.
Current veterinary students will already see a 15 percent increase in systemwide fees and a 7 percent increase in the veterinary medicine professional degree fee starting this 2010-2011 academic year, bringing the total cost for a California resident attending the UC-Davis veterinary school to $30,245, according to the university.