SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A state audit is shedding light on why the California State Universities are refusing to refund mandatory fees for on-campus facilities and services now that campuses are closed.

That decision prompted a lawsuit by students who want their money back. It turns out many CSU campuses are relying on increasing mandatory fees to cover things like salaries and benefits that typically are covered by tuition and state funding.

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Unlike tuition increases, which have significant checks and balances, the audit found that there is little oversight of the increasing fees which are also increasing the cost of going to a state school above and beyond tuition.

Grants and scholarships often don’t cover the mandatory fees, which have more than doubled since 2012, even though the CSU system is now getting more money from the state.

Mandatory fees range from around $800 to $4,000 a year. At Sacramento State, for instance, they total over $1,600.

California law says students are supposed to have a say in some new or increased fees, but the audit found that’s not always happening.

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“In fact, we saw a couple examples where students had votes against an increase or a fee and they went ahead and implemented one anyway,” Margarita Fernandez, a spokesperson for the California State Auditor, said.

In response to the audit, a CSU spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the audit findings affirmed that fee revenues were spent in accordance with federal and state law.”

Many of the on-campus facility and service fees referenced in the lawsuit by students who want their money back because they’re no longer on campus, actually go to construction debt, maintenance and staff salaries – whether or not students are on campus.

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CSU says it has no plans to reduce facility fees next year even though students will not be on campus. The auditor is calling on the lawmakers to require a binding student vote for new or increased mandatory fees.

Julie Watts