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AB-1421 Public postsecondary education: refunds of student campus fees.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 02/19/2021 09:00 PM
AB1421:v99#DOCUMENT


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 1421


Introduced by Assembly Member Nguyen
(Coauthors: Assembly Members Lackey, Patterson, and Seyarto)

February 19, 2021


An act relating to public postsecondary education, making an appropriation therefor, and declaring the urgency thereof, to take effect immediately.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 1421, as introduced, Nguyen. Public postsecondary education: refunds of student campus fees.
(1) Existing law establishes the California State University, under the administration of the Trustees of the California State University, the California Community Colleges, under the administration of the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges, and the University of California, under the administration of the Regents of the University of California, as the segments of public postsecondary education in this state.
This bill would require the trustees and the board of governors, and request the regents, to: (1) identify the students in their respective systems who, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, were obliged to stay away from the campuses at which they were enrolled during the 2019–20 and 2020–21 academic years; (2) ascertain the amounts of campus fees collected from each of the students identified under subdivision (a), and calculate from those amounts of campus fees, the amounts from which the students received no value because of their enforced absence from campus and which should therefore be refunded to the students; and (3) submit the total amounts ascertained and calculated to the Department of Finance and the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.
To the extent that the bill would impose new duties on community college districts with respect to identification of students and calculation of amounts to be refunded, it would constitute a state-mandated local program.
The bill would appropriate an unspecified amount from the General Fund to the Controller for allocation for payment of refunds to students of the California State University, the California Community Colleges, and the University of California for campus fees overpaid due to campus closures in the 2019–20 and 2020–21 academic years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
(2) The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that the bill contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement for those costs shall be made pursuant to the statutory provisions noted above.
(3) This bill would declare that it is to take effect immediately as an urgency statute.
Vote: 2/3   Appropriation: YES   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: YES  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) The State of California issued guidance under which educators could close a school in light of the pandemic in March 2020.
(b) Many California public universities and colleges transitioned to online learning beginning in March 2020.
(c) Students paid campus fees ranged from approximately $850 to more than $4,000 for California State University (CSU) students for the 2019–20 academic year. The University of California (UC) basic student services fee was approximately $1,100, with fees related to specific campuses double that amount or more.
(d) The pandemic has resulted in significant financial hardship for college students and their families. In an Education Trust poll released in May 2020, students stated they were struggling to meet basic food, housing, and financial needs during the pandemic.
(e) Students attending systems of higher education in the spring of 2020, requested refunds for fees for on-campus activities, safety, and health care, among other services they state were never provided.
(f) The CSU adopted interim refund policies in recognition of the crisis on March 19, 2020, but allowed individual campuses to make the decision on the breadth and level of student services that were subject to the refund. Some of the mandatory campus fees were not included in the refund policy.
(g) The 10-campus UC system announced that it would not refund mandatory fees for the 2020–21 academic year even if instruction is delivered remotely.
(h) Students filed lawsuits when their requests for refunds were denied.
(i) Direct payments from the State of California instead of California’s public university systems will relieve students and their families of the burden of paying for on-campus fees and, at the same time, will not impair the ability of the public universities to meet their financial obligations, including debt service, nor jeopardize the financial sustainability of essential functions.
(j) Refunding student campus fees will end costly lawsuits and provide students refunds for services they did not receive when asked to leave their campuses and attend classes remotely.

SEC. 2.

 The Trustees of the California State University and the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges shall, and the Regents of the University of California are requested, to do all of the following:
(a) Identify the students in their respective systems who, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, were obliged to stay away from the campuses at which they were enrolled during the 2019–20 and 2020–21 academic years.
(b) Ascertain the amounts of campus fees collected from each of the students identified under subdivision (a), and calculate from those amounts of campus fees, the amounts from which the students received no value because of their enforced absence from campus and which should therefore be refunded to the students.
(c) Submit the total amounts ascertained and calculated under subdivision (b) to the Department of Finance and the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

SEC. 3.

 The amount of ____ dollars ($____) is appropriated from the General Fund to the Controller for allocation for payment of refunds to students of the California State University, the California Community Colleges, and the University of California for campus fees overpaid due to campus closures in the 2019–20 and 2020–21 academic years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The postsecondary segments shall provide, upon request, appropriate contact information about the students to assist the Controller in efficiently providing these refunds.

SEC. 4.

 If the Commission on State Mandates determines that this act contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement to local agencies and school districts for those costs shall be made pursuant to Part 7 (commencing with Section 17500) of Division 4 of Title 2 of the Government Code.

SEC. 5.

 This act is an urgency statute necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety within the meaning of Article IV of the California Constitution and shall go into immediate effect. The facts constituting the necessity are:
In order to provide timely relief to students of California public postsecondary institutions who had paid campus fees for the 2019–20 or 2020–21 academic years, and then were obliged to stay away from campuses because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary that this act take effect immediately.