Lawsuit Filed to Stop Gov’t Tuition Benefits for Illegal Aliens

Would you approve of your tax dollars being used to subsidize the college education of an illegal alien? My guess is that your answer is the same as mine. Absolutely not! But that’s exactly what is taking place in Montgomery County, Maryland. And Judicial Watch has decided to take legal action to stop it.

On Thursday, January 20, we held a press conference in Annapolis — Maryland’s historic state capital — to announce the filing of a taxpayer lawsuit against the Board of Trustees of Maryland’s Montgomery College for unlawfully charging discounted “in county” tuition rates to students who graduate from Montgomery County public high schools, regardless of their place of residency or immigration status.

Our new lawsuit alleges Montgomery College’s tuition policy violates both Maryland and federal law and places a substantial financial burden on Montgomery County taxpayers, who subsidize student tuition. Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit on behalf of Montgomery County taxpayers Michael Lee Philips, Patricia Fenati, and David Drake in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County.

Here’s a partial summary of JW’s argument (as described in our complaint):

Under federal law, unlawfully present aliens generally are ineligible for state or local public benefits, including post-secondary education benefits such as reduced tuition, unless a state has enacted a law affirmatively providing for such eligibility. The State of Maryland has never enacted a law affirmatively providing that unlawfully present aliens are eligible to receive reduced, in-county tuition at public institutions of higher education, including community colleges such as Montgomery College…

Pursuant to Maryland law, “Montgomery College is required to charge out-of-state tuition to any student who attends a community college in the State of Maryland and is not a resident of the State…”

IDefendant Board’s long-standing policy is causing substantial, pecuniary loss to taxpayers in Montgomery County and the State of Maryland. By providing reduced, in-county tuition to all students who graduate from Montgomery County public high schools, regardless of their residence or status as unlawfully present aliens, Montgomery College is failing to collect revenue that, by state and federal law, it is required to collect.

By law the tuition paid by a student who attends community college is determined by a student’s place of residence. Here’s how it breaks down: Students who are residents of the county or counties supporting the community college they attend are charged an in-county rate. Students who are residents of the State of Maryland but reside outside the county or counties supporting the community college they attend are charged an in-state rate. Students who reside outside of the State of Maryland are charged an out-of-state rate.

This seems like a simple, straight-forward approach to me.

However, Montgomery College has a long-standing policy of providing graduates of Montgomery County public high schools, including illegal aliens who unlawfully reside in the United States, the lowest, “in-county” tuition rate regardless of their place of residence.

Montgomery College described its policy in financial statements for Fiscal Years 2007, 2008 and 2009: “[T]he Montgomery College policy is applicable to all persons, equally, and includes all citizens as well as undocumented aliens…” The tuition policy was formally adopted by Montgomery College’s Board of Trustees on November 15, 2010.

But it bears repeating. The tuition policy is illegal.

This is probably why Montgomery College’s tuition policy is so vastly different from other institutions of higher education, as The Washington Post noted recently: “Some public colleges in the region don’t admit illegal immigrants as students, and those that do typically charge them higher non-resident rates because they cannot prove legal residency.”

Laws in Maryland and Virginia allow public universities to accept illegal aliens, but they are under no obligation to do so, and these institutions certainly cannot provide them illegal perks in the form of discounted tuition. (In fact, the University of Virginia, as the Post notes, has gone to court to protect its right to deny admission to illegal aliens.)

How much money are we talking about here? Between 2006 and 2009, Montgomery College failed to collect $5,870,852 in tuition because of its policy to unlawfully allow illegal aliens and other “out-of-state” students to pay a discounted “in-county” tuition rate.

By the way, this policy has been questioned by the College’s own auditors. Maryland State Delegate Pat McDonough first alerted Judicial Watch to this issue last year, prompting Judicial Watch to conduct an independent investigation, which led to this taxpayer lawsuit.

As one our clients, Mike Phillips, said at our press conference, the policy is simply “grossly unfair.”

Montgomery College’s funneling of tax dollars to tuition benefits for illegal aliens is against the law. And this policy is especially egregious in this age of government budget crises. Our taxpayer clients hope the court will put a stop to Montgomery College’s policy of providing illegal perks at taxpayers’ expense.