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Dive Brief: 

  • An appellate court reversed a ruling Monday that barred University of North Texas from charging out-of-state American students higher tuition than unauthorized immigrants living in Texas who qualify for in-state rates. 
  • The decision from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals marks a victory for both unauthorized immigrants in Texas and the state’s public universities that rely on the higher tuition paid by out-of-state students. 
  • A panel of appellate judges wrote that the lower court had misinterpreted federal law when it struck down the university’s tuition policy, which is based on a 2001 Texas statute giving some unauthorized Texans in-state rates.

Dive Insight: 

The case centered on a 2001 Texas law that allows unauthorized immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition rates if they’ve lived in the state for three years. Around 22,000 unauthorized immigrants attended Texas colleges in 2021 paying in-state rates, The Texas Tribune reported last year

The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative organization, sued the University of North Texas for offering in-state rates to unauthorized Texans. On behalf of the student organization Young Conservatives of Texas, TPPF argued that a ‘90s-era federal law prohibited the college from charging out-of-state students more than unauthorized immigrants living in the state. 

U.S. District Judge Sean Jordan agreed last year, ruling that the tuition policy “directly conflicts” with a Congressional prohibition, and therefore was unconstitutional. Jordan ordered the University of North Texas to charge out-of-state residents the same as in-state students. 

The 42,000-student university was facing millions in lost tuition revenue before the appeals court reversed that ruling. For the 2022-23 academic year, tuition and fees at the University of North Texas were $11,140 for in-state students compared to $20,932 for out-of-state students. 

However, only 4% of the university’s first-time, degree-seeking undergraduates came from out of state in fall 2020, according to federal data.