U.S. District Judge Sean Jordan ruled that the University of North Texas (UNT) must end the practice of allowing students who live in Texas but are not U.S. citizens to pay the in-state tuition rate.
The Texas Tribune reports that Jordan’s ruling centers on a 2001 Texas law that states students who are not U.S. citizens but have lived in Texas for 3 years can pay in-state tuition. Students who are U.S. citizens of other states must pay for out-of-state tuition.
UNT’s chapter of the student organization Young Conservatives of Texas filed a lawsuit regarding the policy last year, with the assistance of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan research institute.
The suit argues that according to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, an individual “who does not legally reside in the United States should not be eligible for a postsecondary education benefit granted on the basis of where someone lives unless United States citizens qualify for the same benefit,” according to ABC News.
Judge Jordan agreed.
“Because Texas’s nonresident tuition scheme directly conflicts with Congress’s express prohibition on providing eligibility for postsecondary education benefits, it is preempted and therefore unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause,” Jordan wrote in his findings, per Reuters.
According to The Texas Tribune, slightly more than 22,000 non-U.S.-citizen students took advantage of this benefit in 2021 to enroll in Texas colleges and universities. An in-state student at UNT pays just under $12,000 in tuition and fees, while an out-of-state student pays closer to $24,000.
UNT lawyers filed an appeal against last week’s decision made in Jordan’s court. They argued that the decision would cost millions of dollars of revenue per semester. If the ruling is upheld, it could have ramifications for other Texas public universities that financially rely on charging higher tuition for out-of-state students.
The Texas Tribune Reports Thomas A. Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, worked on the case and criticized the judge’s ruling.
“It’s hard not to see it as a Trump judge overreaching to try to change longstanding law in the State of Texas,” said Saenz. “It’s obviously a political lawsuit, and granting that political lawsuit is what’s disturbing.”