Gamble v. University of New Hampshire

In Gamble v. University of New Hampshire (1992) 136 N.H. 9, 14 610 A.2d 357, the catalogue set forth the cost of attending the university with the express reservation that the university may adjust the charges to be assessed. (Gamble, supra, at p. 361.) The students were also required to pay their bills by the end of the registration period. (Ibid.) The court concluded that once the student paid his or her bill by the end of the registration period, the reservation of rights clause became ineffective. (Ibid.) However, in-state students who received letters from the university informing them of an impending increase were "on notice that there was an excellent chance that the tuition would be raised" and the reservation of rights clause remained effective. (Id. at pp. 361-362.) Thus, the court in Gamble applied contract law to interpret the duties and obligations of each party. In Gamble v. University of New Hampshire (1992), the university published the cost of attending the college in its catalogue with the express reservation that it could adjust the charges to be assessed. (Id. at p. 361.) The catalogue also specified that the student had to pay all outstanding charges prior to the start of the semester. (Ibid.) The court concluded "that a reasonable person could interpret the language of these two clauses to mean that all bills must be paid by the end of the registration period, at which time the reservation of rights clause would be rendered ineffective." (Ibid.) The court elaborated: "The university, by the reservation of rights clause, does not have the right to arbitrarily raise the tuition after the registration time deadline. It is inconceivable that the university could retain carte blanche authority to raise the tuition at any time during the semester for any amount it deems appropriate." (Ibid.) Thus, the court explained: "It is not sufficient for the university to put a general disclaimer in the catalogue that it may raise the tuition at any time during the semester. The students must be advised of any impending surcharge in order to be able to make an informed decision as to whether they can afford the potential increase or whether they prefer not to enroll at the institution for that semester." (Ibid.) In Gamble, however, the university had sent individualized letters with the bills to in-state students warning them of an impending increase to their fees. (Gamble, supra, 610 A.2d at pp. 361-362.) Since the in-state students received actual notice and were exposed to the extensive media coverage regarding the proposed increase, the Gamble court determined that "a reasonable in-state student would have entered into his or her agreement with the university knowing that tuition might well be raised in the middle of the semester." (Id. at p. 362.) Out-of-state students, however, did not receive individualized notice and the court concluded that it could not presume these students would have been exposed to the local media coverage; therefore, the court concluded that the out-of-state students did have a breach of contract claim against the university. (Ibid.)