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OSAKA — Fifty-six individuals who took entrance exams for institutes of higher learning filed lawsuits Friday with three district courts in the Kansai region against 22 private universities and 6 vocational colleges.

The plaintiffs, who did not enroll at the colleges they had applied to, are demanding that the institutions refund more than 58 million yen in admission and tuition fees.

Forty plaintiffs who filed lawsuits at the Osaka District Court paid a total of 38 million yen in admission fees, tuition fees and other expenses to 12 universities and five colleges before the 2002 academic year started in April, according to their lawyers. But these individuals either ended up attending other institutions or discontinued their studies for personal reasons, the lawyers said.

Similar suits were filed with the Kobe District Court and the Kyoto District Court. One plaintiff reportedly paid 8.9 million yen to a Hyogo medical college, including a facility fee of 5.5 million yen. Although the individual did not attend the college, the money was not returned.

It is customary for students who have passed entrance examinations for private universities or colleges to pay admission fees and sometimes tuition fees by specific deadlines. These deadlines usually precede the results of entrance examinations for national universities.

Fees for private universities or colleges have thus long been regarded as “insurance payments” for those who take entrance exams for two or more universities. Private universities generally declare in their exam-related literature “the admission fee and other money, once paid, will not be returned for any reason.”

But Tadashi Matsumaru, the plaintiffs’ chief lawyer, said this should not be the case any longer in the wake of the enactment of the Consumer Contracts Law in April 2001.

The law prohibits companies from accepting cancellation funds in excess of the actual damage caused by the cancellation of a contract.

Matsumaru and other lawyers set up a hotline for this problem in April and received around 400 calls in six hours.

At the behest of lawyers, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry instructed private universities earlier this month not to levy any charges other than admission fees to students who do not enroll.

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