Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that on Thursday, January 20, it filed 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. The 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 the cost of students attending the community college. 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 (Philips, et al. v. Board of Trustees of Montgomery College (V342882)).
According to Judicial Watch’s 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…By law, the tuition paid by a student who attends community college is determined by a student’s place of residence. 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 instate rate. Students who reside outside the State of Maryland are charged an out-of-state rate.
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…”
Defendant 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.
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 this 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.
Between 2006 and 2009, Montgomery College failed to collect $5,870,852 in tuition fees due to its policy of unlawfully allowing a discounted “in county” tuition rate to illegal aliens and other “out of state” students.
The 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.
“Montgomery College’s funneling of tax dollars to tuition benefits for illegal aliens is against the law. The policy is especially egregious in this age of government budget crises,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Our taxpayer clients hope the court will put a stop to Montgomery College’s policy of providing illegal perks at taxpayer expense.”