Price Setting From The Bench? University Of North Texas Still In Legal Battle Over How It Can Set Its Tuition
College in the US costs a lot. Too much, even. But I never thought to sue over it. That said, I'm also not a member of the Young Conservatives of Texas Foundation (YCT). They've been taking UNT to court over the school's practice of charging non-citizens in-state tuition rates. I get the tension -- even if they live in Texas, they are technically out-of-staters. Don't let first glances at the case fool you though. This goes deeper than cash and immigration status. It gets to the heart of state agency and federal authority.
A lawyer for the University of North Texas on Wednesday told a U.S. appeals court that the school could not be forced to lower tuition for residents of other states, even if its policy of offering discounted in-state tuition to immigrants in the country illegally is unlawful.
A three-judge 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in New Orleans heard oral arguments in a conservative group's lawsuit claiming UNT violated federal law by offering benefits to immigrants who live in Texas while denying them to U.S. citizens from other states.
Looking past the fact that this nuanced dissection of what the "in" in in-state tuition mean feels like a revitalized Clintonism, UNT's in-/out-of-state tuition is a stark example of how colleges can use one subset of students to subsidize another. I don't know if you've looked at the disparity but dude, it is a lot of money. How much? Even at other schools, realtors are factoring it into their advertisements.
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I understand wanting to lower the out-of-state costs, but should a judge have the authority to determine a public school's tuition? UNT admits that this pricing difference is key to their model:=
U.S. District Judge Sean Jordan in Sherman, Texas agreed with the Young Conservatives of Texas Foundation (YCT) last April and ordered UNT to charge out-of-state residents about $12,000 less per year, in line with what Texas residents pay.
Wallace Jefferson of Alexander Dubose & Jefferson, who represents the school, told the 5th Circuit on Wednesday that Jordan's ruling amounted to "a federal takeover of the state's tuition policy."
UNT, which has more than 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students, has said Jordan's ruling will cost it millions of dollars in revenue that it collects from out-of-state residents.
For now, the case is still underway. If the courts don't decide in UNT's favor, realtors may have to find another marketing gimmick. For said realtors, along with anyone else interested, the case is Young Conservatives of Texas Foundation v. Smatresk, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 22-40225.
Texas University Says It doesn't Have To Lower Tuition For U.S. Citizens [Reuters]
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord(TM) in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by tweet at @WritesForRent.