The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit heard oral arguments regarding the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) and the University of North Texas’s out-of-state tuition lawsuit.
In November 2022, the North Texas University chapter of YCT, represented by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, sued UNT for tuition prices. YCT claims that members of its organizations were directly harmed by the higher out-of-state tuition prices. According to the UNT Website, out-of-state students are charged an average of $38, 794, while the average tuition for Texas residents is $22, 568.
Due to a 2001 Texas law titled the Texas Dream Act (HB 1403), undocumented immigrants that have been Texas residents for three years, relied on a parent or guardian living in Texas and are registered in a Texas public university were eligible for in-state tuition. The plaintiffs claim that it is unfair to charge United States citizens more than undocumented immigrants and in April 2022 the United States District Court Eastern District of Texas in Sherman.
According to a story by Reuters, at first, the court simply called UNT’s tuition policy and the 2001 law a scam, but in a later hearing the court cited a 1996 federal immigration law that bans states from providing higher education benefits to undocumented immigrants.
“I think we can all universally agree that students who are not documented and students who are not citizens but live in Texas and want to come and get a higher education can come, and they shouldn’t be put under the hot plate for that,” graduating senior and UNT Student Government Association student Kaylen Ruiz said. “I understand that YCT is definitely trying to enact something, but for me, it is a very frustrating call to action that they are making.”
YCT considered the court’s decision a win and said that federal statute calls for out-of-state tuition to be less than that charged to undocumented Texas residents.
“At the Fifth Circuit and below, what UNT has argued is that even though this law is preempted and unlawful, they cannot comply with federal law because of their budget,” Texas Public Policy Foundation Litigation director, Chance Weldon, said in a statement for the Texan News. “We believe that position is an extremely radical one. Under the 2001 Texas law, universities must continue to provide the same tuition to unlawful aliens as in-state residents. What they may not do is charge American citizens more than this rate.”
On February 8, 2023, the Federal Court of Appeals heard oral arguments for this case again. While YCT continued to argue that tuition prices were unfair, UNT argued that they should not be forced to lower their out-of-state tuition. UNT claimed that the past ruling would cost them million in revenue that they acquired from out-of-state students.
According to court documents, the court ruled that even if UNT’s tuition policy for undocumented students violated federal law, the court did not have the grounds to change UNT’s out-of-state tuition policy.
Ruiz expressed disappointment in the court’s final decision and said that she hopes UNT finds a way to continue to create equity for minority and undocumented students.
YCT has not released a statement on the most recent ruling and did not respond to the request for a statement by The Lasso.
Karyme Flores can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.