A private communications school that overcharged tuition and landed in various other trouble was ordered on Wednesday to refund nearly NOK 30 million to former students. The crushing verdict against the former Westerdals School of Communication was handed down by the Oslo City Court.
“All the students are overjoyed,” their representative Erling Løken Andersen told state broadcaster NRK. “The judges have been very thorough both in going through the facts and the law, and concluded that the students have been right all along.”
Officials of the school, which has undergone management and ownership changes, had earlier settled with around 700 students but 472 others had sued to recoup all the money they claimed was overcharged from 2003 until 2012. They prevailed, and the court also ordered Westerdals, now part of the local college Høyskolen Kristiania, to pay court costs and the students’ legal fees amounting to another NOK 4 million.
A spokesman for the school said its officials and legal advisers would examine the verdict “and evaluate the way forward.”
Westerdal’s problems became public in the fall of 2015, when newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) revealed how its former owners, who included members of Norway’s wealthy Løvenskiold family, had illegally transferred more than NOK 100 million from the school to its parent company, basically allowing them ot take dividends. The school had also wrongly received state subsidy over a 10- year period for curricula that lacked state certification and it had charged students tuition fees that were double what the law allows.
The state economic police unit Økokrim charged the school with fraud but ended up dropping the case for lack of evidence. The state education ministry demanded repayment of NOK 84 million in illegally obtained subsidy but settled for NOK 42 million.