Students at California community colleges are often charged an extra fee (around $75) for taking online courses. This is odd because, well, the whole point of online classes is that they’re supposed to be cheaper to administer. It may also be illegal.

According to an article by Nanette Asimov in the San Francisco Chronicle:

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.

A California state regulation requires that any fees for instruction must result in “tangible personal property” for the students. But in most cases students who take online community college courses have to pay extra fees to access course materials but they can’t actually download and store those materials on their computers.

If state regulators determine that extra fees are unacceptable, community colleges may have to refund the fees to students.

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer