Schools told to return tuition fees to students who didn’t enroll

Four universities in Tokyo were handed a court order Thursday to return a total of 4.8 million yen in prepaid tuition fees to people who passed their entrance exams but did not enroll.

The Tokyo District Court ordered Waseda University, Kanto Gakuin University, Sophia University and Taisho University to make the refunds to eight plaintiffs.

But the court turned down the plaintiffs’ request that their entrance fees also be refunded.

The eight were among a group of 21 former college applicants who sued seven universities and one private junior high school, all in the Kanto region. They were seeking amounts ranging from 300,000 yen to 1.55 million yen.

It was the sixth ruling in a recent series of similar lawsuits and was the first to be handed down by the Tokyo court.

At issue is a provision in the universities’ entrance application forms stipulating that the institutions will not refund any of the entrance or prepaid tuition fees, which applicants pay after passing the entrance exams.

The eight plaintiffs paid their money to the universities last year, after the 2001 enforcement of the Consumer Contract Law, which says parties can claim no more than normal damages due to a contract cancellation.

They had notified the universities of their decision not to enroll by March 31, 2002, before the new academic year began.

In the ruling, presiding Judge Takashi Saito said tuition fees are sums paid for education provided by the universities.

Because the eight plaintiffs actually did not take any of the programs, “it cannot be recognized that the universities suffered any damage from the plaintiffs’ decision not to enroll,” according to the judge.

He therefore ruled that the provision in the application forms is invalid in light of the 2001 law.

In dismissing the plaintiffs’ calls for refunds of their entrance fees, however, Saito said the fees were paid to gain enrollment status.

The court also turned down refund demands from other plaintiffs who only notified the universities of their decision not to enroll after the academic year began on April 1, stating that they had already become students of the universities at that point.