Manitoba student files lawsuit over late tuition charges

Case made on behalf of other students

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A student at the University of Manitoba has filed a class action lawsuit against the university.

In protest against “excessive” interest rates and punitive fees for late tuition payments, the student filed the lawsuit reportedly on behalf of all fellow students incurring the same charges.

“The issue is if a person is only a day late, an hour late, or even a minute late in making a tuition payment, that person has to pay a fee of $50,” Norman Rosenbaum, the lawyer representing the student who originally filed the suit, said.

According to Rosenbaum, the aforementioned fee falls under the definition of a criminal rate of interest as per the provisions in the Criminal Code of Canada.

In addition to the fee, Manitoba students are forced to de-register if tuition is not paid after two weeks as well as pay another fee of $40.

“It is not cost effective for an individual student to file a lawsuit of this nature alone,” Rosenbaum added, when explaining why a single student filed the class action suit on behalf of all students who have incurred late charges.

However, the success of this class action suit could cost other post-secondary institutions in Canada millions of dollars, as it is believed other schools utilize the same policy.

Rosenbaum believes this suit will include 10 per cent of Manitoba’s student population currently attending a post-secondary institution, representing an estimated 100,000 students.

However Richard McLaren, a professor of business law in Western’s Faculty of Law, holds a different view regarding the costs this suit could impose on other universities and community colleges.

“The class action may not have a ripple effect, because accounting costs could cost more than the distribution of money,” McLaren said.

McLaren also outlined possible arguments Manitoba administration could utilize when building a defence case.

“Defence depends on the language used in [Manitoba’s] contract regarding tuition payments, how soon students pay their tuition fees after the deadline and as to whether or not it’s in the statute,” McLaren said.

Western’s current late payment penalty fee is a smaller percentage of tuition paid by students than at Manitoba. Full-time Canadian undergraduates at Western have a late payment penalty of $105 while full-time international undergraduates have late payment penalties of $285.

Administrators in Manitoba are currently preparing a defence case.

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