HAYWARD (KPIX) – When colleges stopped in-person classes, students had to switch to online learning. That cut out much of the campus life that students were enjoying and had paid for in advance. Now some are demanding their money back.

The campus of Cal State East Bay looks like a postcard, mainly because nothing is moving.

“Yeah, it’s a ghost town up here for sure…for sure it’s a ghost town!” said first year student Angelina Knights, one of the few still living on campus, but it’s not much of a life.

The Recreation and Health Center is closed and Knights says, despite paying for an expensive meal plan, since the shutdown the dining hall mostly offers prepackaged sandwiches. She says there is no entertainment and the only transportation is the city bus.

“We need some stuff up here. I get that we’re going through a crisis but there’s other things we can work around,” she said. “If they can’t work around it then money should be given back.”

Getting that money refunded is the aim of federal class-action lawsuits filed Monday against the UC and CSU systems. In addition to normal tuition and housing, CSU charges students anywhere from $847 to more than $4,000 per year, depending on the school.

Noel Garcia, an attorney with the firm filing the lawsuit, says schools should not keep the money if they are no longer offering the benefits.

“There are a lot of parents who have lost their jobs during this time and having that extra money back would be a great benefit, especially in this time of great hardship,” said Garcia.

But CSU says they are offering refunds for things that are not being provided such as housing and parking. But they say the lawsuit misstates the facts.

“Campuses continue to operate, and many personal services are now provided remotely, such as counseling, advising, faculty office hours, disability student services, and even telehealth medical care,” CSU spokesperson Michael Uhlenkamp wrote in a statement.

But CSU East Bay student Cece Hurtado say that’s not the college experience she signed up for.

“I acknowledge that they’re doing everything that virtually they can, but I do believe that we paid for a lot more than what we’re getting right now,” she said. “And there should be some type of compensation for that.”

There are more than 700,000 students in the two university systems and refunding the fees could mean a loss of millions of dollars for the colleges. So, students waiting for a refund shouldn’t get their hopes up.

Attorney Garcia says these kinds of class-action lawsuits can take a long time to litigate and, even if they win, students may only get a small percentage of the fees they actually paid.

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