A $10 million lawsuit against Auburn University over its out-of-state tuition system should be closely watched given the potential ramifications it has.
Jeffrey Prosser and his daughter, Brooke, filed the suit after failing to convince university officials that Brooke Prosser qualifies for in-state tuition, which at $5,746 per semester is $9,816 less than the out-of-state rate. The Prossers, who used to live in Georgia, now live across the Chattahoochee River in Valley, Alabama, and argue that the out-of-state rate is wrongly applied.
The concept of two tuition scales for Alabama residents and others suggests that residents have contributed to the tax base of the state while those coming from elsewhere have not. Almost 13,000 of Auburn University’s student population of roughly 30,000 hail from states or nations outside Alabama, and are presumably ineligible for in-state tuition.
However, state support of public institutions of higher education has decreased over time; in the 2013-2014 budget year, Auburn reported state appropriations that accounted for roughly 25 percent of its $1 billion-plus budget.
The progression of the Prossers' case may well put the out-of-state tuition system under a microscope to determine how residency is determined, and for whom and under what circumstances, as well as the formula to justify the disparity in price tags — not only at Auburn, but also at public universities across the nation.