The temporary fee part 1: Kashmiri & you.

In August, Dean Schill sent an email out to all UCLA law students announcing that the Regents had decided to assess an extra-special “temporary fee” of $1050 on UC professional students (except public health, public policy, and international relations) for the 05-06 and 06-07 school year. Because the Regents were late in announcing this fee they decided to only collect 2/3 of the fee ($700) this year, and the full $1050 next year. Total for the next two years: $1750.

Why the fee? In July 03, a class action complaint was filed, Kashmiri v. Regents of the University of California. The complaint alleged three counts of breach of contract against the Regents. The largest of these was the claim that the Regents had promised professional students entering in fall 2002 that their fees would stay consistent throughout their graduate program. After the big budget cuts that year, the Regents raised professional fees dramatically.

The lawsuit alleged this was breach of contract and sought a refund of overcharges already paid. The Kashmiri class also sought & received an injunction against the Regents in Aug 04 to prevent them from collecting any more of the alleged overcharges until the case had been tried.

As a result of the injunction, the Regents didn’t collect as much revenue in 2004-05 as they expected to. $13.5 million less, in fact. And they expect to have a shortfall of $9 million this year due to the injunction. Total $22.5 million.

Here’s where you come in, dear reader. The Regents considered a few options for recouping this money. First was to assess a temporary fee of $75 on every student in the UC system. That seems pretty reasonable, yes? But no. This was dismissed as “not feasible, given the political environment”.

Option 2: charge a one-time fee of $3200 on each professional student. This would’ve put blood in the streets for sure.

Option 3: a temporary fee of $1050 on professional students only, for two years. This is the option the Regents went with. How did they justify it? By their reasoning, non-professional grad students had an Educational Fee increase of $1050 last year, and professional students didn’t. So it only seems fair that now we get our Educational Fee raised by the same amount. Right?

This overlooks the fact that in 2004-05, the Professional Fee was raised from $9473 to $14,473. That’s FIVE THOUSAND BUCKS for those of you averse to math. (Current and past fees for all UCLA programs is available here.)

More perplexing, the temporary fee only lasts for two years: in 2007-08 they will switch over to a system-wide fee of $60 per student to recover the remainder of the injunction costs.

Does this just strike you as, like, a total rip? The Regents screwed up. They breached a contract with the Kashmiri class. OK, there hasn’t been a judgment on the merits yet, but when a judge grants a temporary injunction, it’s an indication that he thinks the plaintiffs are likely to prevail.

Professional students in general, and law students in particular, get charged more because we derive more economic value from our UCLA degree. Fair enough. But the Regents could’ve made a reasonable system-wide fee of $75 to recover the injunction costs. They chose not to, in order to avoid some vague political unpleasantness. Apparently it is more politically pleasant to raid the piggybanks of professional students yet again.

But wait! That’s not all. You might say to yourself, “if the Regents win the case, they have the right to collect the disputed fees from the Kashmiri class, correct?” Correct. But according to the minutes of the May 2005 Regents’ meeting:

[T]he University believes its position in this case is correct ... Even if the University ultimately prevails in the litigation, however, at the end of this current term the majority of students who have benefitted from the injunction prohibiting collection of fee increases ... will have graduated, and it will be very difficult to collect the revenue at a later date.

Meaning, if the Kashmiri class wins, they win. If the Kashmiri class loses, they still win!—because the Regents will not pursue enforcement of a winning judgment.

So, your Regents are up there in San Francisco, charging you an extra $1750 to fix their contract breach, and spending a nice chunk of the money to defend a lawsuit which is apparently moot.

I will leave you with a link to the minutes of the May 2005 Regents’ meeting. This is the smoking gun—a look into the mind of the Regents, and what they think of law students in particular. There is too much poetry to cite it all, but this one stands out:

Regent Lee believed that while it was important for the University’s business schools to
maintain their [quality advantage], it was less important for its law schools, in view of the abundance
of lawyers in the nation. He observed that it would help protect jobs in this country to
charge higher fees to law students and lower fees to students in less well-represented
fields such as nursing.

Memo to Regent Lee: WTF!?

30 Sep 05

Comments

Thanks for the excellent pro bono work, MB.

So even if UC wins the suit, it won’t collect on its debt, but would rather collect it from its other customers? I smell an impending lawsuit. Anyone want to be a named party?

Posted by: KN at October 1, 2005 10:55 AM

matthewb @ ucla
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