|Hundreds of California community college students who pay extra fees to access online course content may be owed a refund for inappropriate charges if they can't download the material for future reference.
The problem came to light after a Foothill Community College student protested to administrators at the Los Altos campus that the $78 fee he had to pay a publishing company to join an online math class — on top of his $85 registration fee — was an unfair double charge.
If state regulators decide such fees are improper, the result could have far-reaching consequences for colleges that are increasingly turning to online classes as a cheaper alternative in an era of unprecedented budget cuts.
Though it is unclear yet how many colleges require students to pay extra fees to publishers of online courses, such companies say they sell curriculum to most of California's 112 community colleges.
Foothill College administrators defend the fee, calling it a legitimate charge for instructional materials.
But students say the fee is more like a toll to participate in the class, and they get nothing tangible in return.