Brazil's Supreme Federal Court (STF) Thursday ruled that lower court decisions granting linear discounts on college tuition fees during the COVID-19 pandemic were unconstitutional.
By nine votes to one, the highest Court joined Justice Rosa Weber's decision, who was the case's rapporteur.
Parents and students had sought legal assistance to get a reduction in the monthly fees paid to educational institutions, citing difficulties stemming from the pandemic restrictions. Lower courts at nine different states had granted those requests, consisting of discounts between 30% and 50%.
But the STF has overturned those rulings at the request of the Council of Rectors of Brazilian Universities and by the National Association of Private Universities (Anup), which claimed that those judicial rulings had taken away from them the power to negotiate an individual discount based on the needs of each student.
According to the STF decision, the discounts can still be judicialized. However, they must take into account several factors, such as the characteristics of each course, workload, forms of assessment, costs of transition to remote classes and the economic condition of the students.
Justice Rosa Weber said there was interference in universities, in actions that disregarded the peculiarities of each contract, and also paid attention to the violation of free enterprise.
Justice Nunes Marques cast the only dissenting vote, saying that “action by the Supreme Court is not the correct remedy to question regional decisions. I defend that the judicial system can analyze its own decisions according to the evidence reported.”
Parents had also stressed discounts were needed due to the cost of transitioning from on-site to virtual schooling.
But the STF claimed these compulsory blanket discounts may benefit even those who were not facing financial difficulties or may even be insufficient for another student in a more vulnerable situation.
Justice Weber had filed her vote Wednesday, saying free enterprise had been hurt. Justices Gilmar Mendes, Alexandre de Moraes, Luiz Fux, Edson Fachin, Luís Roberto Barroso, Carmen Lúcia, Dias Toffoli and Ricardo Lewandowski concurred with the rapporteur.