Out-of-State Tuition Policies Face Lawsuit

The University of California system is facing a lawsuit over its stringent but potentially unconstitutional residency requirements that result in out-of-state tuition and fees for some California residents.

“”Schools can charge out-of-state tuition,”” said Neal Markowitz, a lawyer for the San Diego-based Eppsteiner and Associates law firm, which is handling the suit. “”Just don’t charge it to California citizens.””

California students who attend state-run universities have their education subsidized by the state and federal governments. Because out-of-state students do not receive similar benefits, the cost of their tuition reflects the actual, marginal cost for their education.

By California state law, it takes less than six months to become a California citizen, which includes rights such as the right to vote and to receive welfare. However, the UC system sets residency requirements that are much more strict than those of the state.

In addition to living in California for 12 months, the UC system requires that students must prove they are financially independent before they can pay in-state tuition and fees.

To demonstrate this, students are not allowed to leave California for more than six weeks during the year in which they are trying to become residents, and they must not have received more than $750 per year for the previous three years from their guardians. In addition, they must submit a copy of their guardians’ tax statement.

These rules prohibit students who want to become California residents from taking advantage of opportunities outside of the state.

“”I think it is absolutely ridiculous that I couldn’t get an internship [outside of] California this summer if I want to stay eligible to pay regular in-state tuition,”” said Marshall junior Scott Edgers, who is originally from Illinois. “”I am being penalized for trying to expand my educational limits.””

Many students are upset that being eligible to pay in-state fees is not solely based on being a California citizen.

“”I am a registered voter of California and pay California taxes, yet I still have to pay out-of-state tuition,”” said Muir sophomore Steve Reis, a native of Arizona. “”This system is absurd.””

Reis has not been financially independent from his parents for three years. Therefore, he is required to pay the additional $9,000 per year to attend UCSD as an out-of-state student, regardless of his California citizenship.

Currently, Josh Markowitz, a third-year graduate student at UC Hastings School of Law, is suing the Hastings Board of Education under similar circumstances.

As a new California citizen, Markowitz filed suit against Hastings, stating that the UC requirements are unconstitutional, and that he should not have to pay the extra $11,232 per year in tuition that results from his out-of-state status.

The fact that Hastings is a three-year school makes it impossible for new California residents to garner the opportunity to pay in-state tuition and fees, due to the school’s requirement that a student must not have received a payment of more than $750 from his guardian in the last three years.

Those attending Hastings who did their undergraduate work in a state other than California do not usually have the chance to qualify for in-state tuition and fees, because their parents likely supported them during their undergraduate studies.

These discrepancies have been called unconstitutional by the Eppsteiner and Associates law firm.

Markowitz said that the jurisdiction in the Hastings case is above the school’s education board and will most likely result in the passage of new legislation to overrule the current laws.

A precedent to change such a decision was made in 1999 in the case of Saenz v. California Dept. of Social Services et al., when the State of California ruled that becoming a resident of California guarantees a person all the rights that any other resident receives.

The court ruled that becoming a resident of California entitles a person to be eligible to receive California welfare payments. This refuted previous legislation, which had stated that a new California resident would receive the lower of the two payments between what is offered by California and the person’s previous state of residence.

Markowitz said the case against the UC system will probably commence early this summer and will have to be settled at a later date.

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