The Young Conservatives of Texas, YCT, represented by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, has filed a lawsuit against the university regarding the difference in tuition rates for out-of state-students and Texas residents whose immigration status is undocumented.
The litigation challenges the constitutionality of a combination of state statutes, which the plaintiffs argue compels nonresident students to pay higher tuition than Texas residents whose immigration status is undocumented. The lawsuit accuses the university of constituting injuries to YCT members by following state law and charging these higher tuition rates to nonresidents.
“YCT has members that are injured by UNT collecting higher tuition than is allowed under federal law,” TPFF attorney Robert Henneke said. “Those students that are illegally and unjustly denied the ability to pay the same rate of tuition as their classmates are certainly concerned.”
Federal law mandates no U.S. resident whose immigration status is undocumented is eligible for in-state tuition rates unless any and all citizens of the country are eligible for the same benefits.
Texas residents whose immigration status is undocumented are not mentioned in either of the Texas statutes cited in the lawsuit. One statute sets an out-of-state student’s tuition equal to the average amount a Texas student is charged in the other five most populous states in the country, while another determines Texas resident status.
While universities across Texas follow the same state law, the University of North Texas is the only one that is currently being sued. Neither the YCT state board nor the local university chapter of YCT responded to requests for comment.
“We filed suit against UNT because our client has members that attend UNT that are being forced to pay higher tuition than they are allowed to be charged under federal law,” Henneke said. “Out-of-state tuition is set by state law, so a win in our case would apply to all Texas state universities.”
President Neal Smatresk and Vice President of Enrollment Shannon Goodman were also individually named in the lawsuit. Jim Berscheidt, Vice President for University Brand Strategy and Communications, spoke to the North Texas Daily on behalf of Smatresk and Goodman.
“At this time, we will not be discussing the pending litigation,” Berscheidt said.
The university’s Office of General Counsel did not respond to requests for comment.
The lawsuit was announced in a TPPF press release on Nov. 16. It was then shared by Henneke, YCT and the university’s YCT chapter on Twitter. Berscheidt confirmed the university did not receive official notification of the lawsuit until Nov. 24.
“Today’s lawsuit is about ensuring the sanctity of the rule of law regarding the cost of higher education in the state of Texas,” YCT State Chairman William Dominguez said in TPFF’s press release. “The Young Conservatives of Texas believe that at the heart of this discrepancy is the issue of fairness and that American citizens who reside out of state should have access to equal educational and financial benefits.”
Neither the press release nor any of the aforementioned tweets mention Texas residents whose immigration status is undocumented. However, the lawsuit itself explicitly references “aliens” and their educational benefits under Texas law as the basis of its petition.
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