New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

KECSKEMETI v. CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK, #2002-016-078, Claim No. 97906


Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
Timea Kecskemeti
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Albert Masry, AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 5, 2002
New York

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

This is the decision following the trial of the claim of Timea Kecskemeti. In late October of 1997, Ms. Kecskemeti applied for admission to the spring 1998 term
of the English Language Institute (ELI), which is located on the Queens College campus and is under the auspices of the college's Continuing Education Program. At the time, claimant was residing in Budapest, Hungary. Kecskemeti was admitted to the Institute, having complied with the necessary requisites: a $60 application fee; a copy of her high school diploma; and an affidavit from a sponsor who would provide financial support, in this case her uncle Frank Doczy (see def exhs A and E).[1]
Kecskemeti arrived in the New York metropolitan area in December of 1997. On January 7, 1998, Doczy made out a check for the balance of the semester's tuition on behalf of his niece - - in the amount of $1,705 (cl exh 1, pp 2-3). On January 27, 1998,[2]
claimant took the Institute's competency exam in English and scored well enough to be recommended for college. Shortly thereafter, she received a letter dated February 3, 1998, which in relevant part provided: "To Who It May Concern, Timea Kecskemeti has been recommended for college by the Queens College English Language Institute..." (cl exh 1).
It is at this stage, in Ms. Kecskemeti's view, that she became aggrieved. According to her trial testimony:
...I received information that based on my test results I should be able to go to college. Since I came here to go to college I had every reason to believe that this was what I would be doing. They gave me a letter on February 3 stating that I have been recommended for college...I approached the admissions office and they told me it was already too late in the semester for me to make changes and be able to enroll in [Queens College].
The first page of claimant's exhibit 1 sets forth ELI's schedule for the refund of tuition. Kecskemeti makes no argument that such policy was not followed; for that matter, she was quite vague about the amount of money involved: "and my refund...since I had not paid in cash [they] could not give my money back right away...I had to wait so my prospects of going to any other place or be able to do anything was jeopardized."

Claimant proceeded to attend Adelphi University for the 1998 spring semester and took a course in English for which she received college credit. Adelphi, as a private university, was more expensive than going to Queens College, but claimant presented no detail thereon. In any event, claimant cannot show that ELI somehow improperly put her in the position of being "too late to enroll in college."

That claimant's cause of action lacked solidity became more apparent midway through the trial when Kecskemeti stated that she would have been perfectly willing to spend the 1998 spring semester at the English Language Institute studying English - Level Seven, but was unaware that such course was given. And unlike the English course she did enroll in at Adelphi that spring, no college credit would be awarded for the level 7 course.
ELI/Queens College did not violate any policy as to the availability of course work for the spring term at Queens College. Kecskemeti could not point to any variance by ELI, Queens College or the City University from established policies or procedures; nor did she present any other valid legal theory in support of her claim.
See for example, Sweeney v Columbia University 270 AD2d 335, 704 NYS2d 617 (2d Dept 2000)[3]; and Abraham v New York University College of Dentistry, 190 AD2d 567, 593 NYS2d 229 (1st Dept 1993)[4].
The larger picture in this matter was filled in by defendant's witness, Susan Margolis, the foreign student advisor at the English Language Institute. Ms. Margolis was a credible, straightforward witness, who when she did not know something or when a particular subject was outside of her bailiwick, said so.
Legally, actions of ELI may well be imputed to Queens College and thus the City University; but academically, the two entities are distinct. Margolis referred to a brochure about the Institute and Kecskemeti's own application to ELI, each of which contained this caution: "NOTE: Admission to the English Language Institute does not imply admission to any division of Queens College." (Def exhs A [unnumbered eighth page] and B). Margolis testified that ELI's admissions process was "totally different." It is effected through Margolis' office, and the application for admission is either received directly from overseas or is brought into the ELI office by a friend of relative of the student. As shown above, admission to the Institute requires only proof of a high school diploma, a sponsor's affidavit and a $60 money order. Among other things, an applicant to Queens College would have to present all academic transcripts.

ELI's published policy states that students abroad will be notified of whether or not they are accepted for admission within 3 to 4 weeks of receipt of their application (def exh A, unnumbered sixth page). Margolis indicated that her office seeks to respond in considerably less time, trying for a week's turnaround as occurred with claimant's application.
Upon acceptance, the Institute issued an I-20 form, which a student would then take to an American embassy overseas in order to obtain a Visa for entry into the United States for the course of study. The I-20 is specific to the educational institution. (Def exhs H and P).
With regard to the acceptance letter received by claimant, it contained the following: "Please be advised that if you pass the ELI placement exam, you will be required to remain one semester in this program." The situation Kecskemeti complained of had been anticipated; Margolis testified: "By the time they pass the placement exam, [there is] no time to apply to another school... [staying at ELI] will help them remain in status with the INS [US Immigration].
" Level 7 exists for such people, Margolis explained.
Claimant at trial remarked that she was hearing of such opportunity for the first time. Kecskemeti did not maintain that she was given incorrect advice; apparently all claimant did was look at her grade card and make an unwarranted assumption therefrom. The top line on the upper right of the card was typed:
Next class 1 2 3 4 5 6
None of these six levels was circled or otherwise marked. Underneath, was the typed line: "Recommend for College," next to which a signature was written in. Claimant's English-language competence was above level 6; ELI offered a level 7 course in which she could have enrolled. In addition to improving English language skills, the level 7 course preserved the immigration status of the foreign student.

At trial, ELI came across as quite responsive, and expeditiously so, to its students' needs. Kecskemeti could have easily found out what was available at the Institute. In a similar example of making an assumption without further inquiry, claimant was convinced that her "composite score" of 112.5 on the placement exam was off the charts, and that the top grade was 100. At trial, Margolis explained that 150 was the maximum score.

Claimant could have attended a college other than Queens College or outside of the City University system, which she did, at Adelphi University. Private schools, Margolis observed, tend to have more flexible, rolling admission dates.
Claimant was on notice that in order to apply for the spring term at a college of the City University such as Queens, a completed application had to be received by the preceding October 15 - - October 15, 1997 in this case. See pages 12 and 13 of the booklet entitled Information for International Undergraduate Students (def exh C). Moreover, claimant's own application to Queens College, dated December 27, 1997, was for an "expected date of entrance" in the fall of 1998 (cl exh I). Her cover letter began with this sentence: " I am sending my application for the Fall Semester 1998" (def exh M).
As is evident from the foregoing, Timea Kecskemeti has failed to credibly advance any basis upon which a valid cause of action can be maintained, and her claim (no. 97906) is hereby
dismissed. All motions not previously ruled upon are deemed denied.


August 5, 2002
New York, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] The Doczy affidavit was signed by him October 31, 1997 (def exh E).

[2] Susan Margolis, foreign student advisor at ELI, indicated that the test may be given more than once for a semester, but if so, would be done within the same week. For the spring term, the tests were never given in the December of the previous year.
[3] "The relationship between a university and a student is contractual in nature (see, Prusack v State of New York, 117 AD2d 729, 730)." 270 AD2d at 336, 704 NYS2d 618.

[4] "Plaintiff does not point to any specific representation in any of the defendant's literature which states that graduation from its Institute for Foreign Trained Dentists would qualify her to take licensing examinations in every State...defendant's brochure for the Institute clearly advised that the regulations for licensing examinations vary from State to State...any claim of reasonable reliance is dispelled by the plain language of the brochure..and thus plaintiff's fraud claim lacks merit. The lack of any representation in the brochure supporting plaintiff's asserted expectation is equally fatal to the contract claim..." [Citations omitted]. 190 AD2d at 567, 593 NYS2d at 230.