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Demanding My Money Back


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I think I’ve established that I expect a high value for my tuition.  This past week, I got to confront the problem head on when a professor was very late to class.  He was apologetic and delivered a shortened version of his usually awesome lecture.  While I was waiting for him to arrive, I started calculating what his tardiness was costing me and I decided to do something about it.  I sent the dean of the law school a letter demanding my money back:


Dear Dean Berman:

The College of Law has committed a substantial breach of our contract.  The letter is to inform you of the expected remedy.

On January 31, 2008, I received my acceptance letter to ASU Law School.  The school extended me the offer to pay tuition and fees in exchange for the opportunity to attend classes.  The terms of our agreement included adhering to the ABA’s rules of law students and the law school’s honor code, maintaining a minimal GPA, and making biannual payments to the school.  If I completed these requirements, I would be awarded a J.D. degree in May 2011.  I accepted your offer and have performed my requirements diligently since August 2008.

For spring semester 2010, the school continued our contract by allowing me to continue to take classes in exchange for $10,618.05 in tuition and fees.  Scholarships paid $750 of my financial obligation, leaving me with the $9868.05 balance, which I paid on January 14, 2010 with an electronic check.  This check pre-paid for the classes I am currently taking.

I am registered for 14 credits this semester, which translates to $704.85 per credit.  My three-credit Intellectual Property course that is scheduled to meet 26 times during the semester, for 85 minutes per session has a value of $2114.58 for the course, $81.33 per class session, or 95.7 cents per minute. 

Paying $81 for an 85-minute lecture is a significant amount of money, and I demand a high value for my money.  Professor Douglas Sylvester teaches Intellectual Property and usually delivers an $81 value in each class with his dynamic style.  However, on Tuesday, February 16, 2010, he was 37 minutes late for class.  I appreciated his apology for his tardiness, but this does not negate the fact that ASU Law School did not fulfill its obligation to me that day.  Therefore, I am entitled to recoup $35.40 of my spring semester payment….

Ruth Carter, LPC
Class of 2011


I thought it was hilarious to demand my money back.  Thirty-five dollars isn’t much to some people, but that’s months’ worth of ramen to a college kid. 

I was a little surprised when I got a call from Berman yesterday wanting to talk about my letter.  He basically took my fun away and said I could either (1) have a 37-minute tutorial with Sylvester or (2) file a law suit against ASU, but I wasn’t getting my money back because “it doesn’t work that way.” 

Even though things didn’t work out the way I hoped, I followed my rule: You can’t bitch about something unless you’re willing to do something about it. 

Mission accomplished.

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  1. Addy says:

    I was about to say that you couldn’t file a law suit against ASU first without serving the appropriate people with a claim letter. There is a fun little AZ statute that doesn’t let you sue a public entity first without serving the right people with a claim letter. And if you don’t meet the statute’s claim letter requirements, your future suit will be barred. Then I thought to myself the letter you sent to Dean Berman might actually suffice, assuming you didn’t need to serve the board of reagents or another university official with the letter as well. You allege facts to support your claim, and under current AZ law the test is that the claimant provide facts she feels are sufficient. So you win there. But you must also provide a specific amount that would settle the claim. While you do provide an individual amount ASU could argue that the language in your letter does not make it clear that you would settle the matter for that amount. The test requires that you can prove that the amount claimed in the letter amounts to an offer (very much in the same way an offer is perceived under contract law) that would settle the matter. But it has also been made clear that government liability is meant to be the rule and not the exception under that statute, so that policy could help the court find that you met the second factor as well.

    Why do I know this, you wonder. It was the topic for my open memo last semester. And btw, this is not legal advice, and you know the character and fitness people for the bar would frown upon a law student giving legal advice. This is just me merely sharing my knowledge of the law through analysis of your real world example.


  2. For your intelligence, ballsiness, and Moxy, I owe you a beer or whatever is the equivalent for you. “They” should be held as accountable as the rest of us. Much respect to you Ruth!

  3. Christopher Forbes says:


    Can I just say I think that letter was amazing! I like that you have the courage and the presence of mind to write the dean a letter.

    I also liked that the dean called you with a response rather than putting it in writing . . . makes it seem to me like his response was not genuine – but then again its Berman, genuine is not his strong suit!

    Well done Ruth 🙂

  4. […] semester I didn’t get the value of my tuition and I unsuccessfully demanded my money back.  As students, it’s frustrating that we don’t have much power over the classroom experience […]