Texas college can charge out-of-state students higher tuition than illegal immigrants, court rules

The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a ruling made by a federal district judge that prevented the school from offering lower tuition to Texas illegal aliens than to American citizens from out of state.

'We’re disappointed for our clients who now, as the Court recognized, have to pay [nine] times more in tuition than illegal aliens.'

On July 10, a federal court ruled that the University of North Texas can charge out-of-state students higher tuition costs than illegal immigrant students residing in Texas. 

Issued by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the ruling reversed a decision made last year by a federal district judge that had prevented the school offering local illegal aliens in-state tuition.

In 2020, the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) filed a lawsuit against UNT and alleged that the federal Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act prevented the school from providing benefits to illegal immigrant students not given to U.S. citizens.

[RELATED: State Dept ‘Welcome Corps on Campus’ offers ‘education pathway to citizenship for refugee students’]

“Federal law provides that all citizens must have access to at least the same level of educational benefits as such aliens,” the original lawsuit stated. “Because this state’s statute directly conflicts with federal law, it is preempted by, and thus unconstitutional under, the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.”

In 2022, U.S. District Judge Sean Jordan ruled in favor of the conservative group, declaring that UNT misapplied case law.

In response, the university said his ruling would “cost [UNT] millions of dollars in revenue that it collects from out-of-state residents” who pay approximately $12,000 more annually. 

In February, however, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard the case and ultimately ruled in favor of UNT. 

The court decided that while YCT had legitimate concerns to initially bring the case forward, it claimed that Judge Jordan misapplied federal law in his decision. The court also declared that Jordan had no legal basis to prevent UNT from charging out-of-state American citizens a higher tuition.

“There may be valid preemption challenges to Texas’ scheme here,” the court declared. “But this is not one of them.”

The “Statutory Tuition” price for in-state students is $50 per credit hour compared to $470 for “Non-Residents,” according to the school’s website

UNT issued celebratory comments concerning the ruling on July 12. 

“The fifth circuit’s unanimous opinion affirms the position UNT has taken throughout this litigation,” a high-ranking university official, Kelley Reese, told the North Texas Daily

[RELATED: VA Gov. Northam makes undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition, assistance programs]

“We appreciate the court of appeals’ careful review of Texas law. We at UNT will continue focusing on the reason we’re here — educating tomorrow’s leaders,” she added.

Chance Weldon, an attorney for the Texas Public Policy Foundation and legal representative for YCT, expressed disappointment about the ruling in a statement provided to the Daily.

“While we’re pleased that the Court’s recognized our clients had standing and are being injured by UNT’s tuition scheme along with the Court’s acknowledgment that Texas’s tuition scheme is, at best, Constitutionally suspect, we ultimately disagree with the court as to the proper remedy,” he said. 

“We’re disappointed for our clients who now, as the Court recognized, have to pay [nine] times more in tuition than illegal aliens.”

Campus Reform has reached out to all relevant parties for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.