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Screwed by the ASU Tuition Classification System

One of the benefits of ASU Law School is that non-resident students have the option to be classified as a resident for tuition purposes after one year if they intend to stay in Arizona after graduation.  For one student, who will remain nameless, the system failed him.

Money
Image by TW Collins via Flickr

To be considered a resident in the eyes of ASU, the student has to prove “by clear and convincing evidence” that they had been continuously physically present in the state for 12 months and intend to stay in Arizona indefinitely.  ASU assumes you’re only there to get an education.  A student can prove their intent to stay in Arizona with documents such as a tax return, driver’s license, car registration, bank account, insurance, voter registration, and proof of ownership of property in the state.

My friend got into other law schools that are better than ASU, but he picked ASU because of Arizona’s strong legal market and the school’s high career placement for its graduates.  He complied with the rule regarding residency and submitted his application to have his residency status changed.  Surprisingly, his application was denied.  The committee claimed one of the reasons for the denial was that his financial support came from all student sources.  This is completely inaccurate.  He had a full tuition scholarship, but he paid for his living expense out of his savings.  Basically he was denied in-state tuition because he was smart and was fiscally responsible.

He appealed the decision.  When a student appeals a residency decision, they have to appear before a 3-person panel and state their case.  The panel asks questions and then deliberates right in front of the student before rendering a decision.  Allegedly, my friend’s appeal was hijacked by one of the panel members from University Libraries.  According to my friend, she shared her assumptions about law students with her fellow panel members, such as law school applicants go to the best school they get into and that law school graduates can get jobs anywhere.  Apparently she wasn’t aware that passing the bar exam only allows you to practice law in one state, unless there is reciprocity.  The panel allegedly considered these assumptions about law students rather than the facts that my friend presented.

Now, my friend is wicked smart and a great guy in general.  He has a summer associate position lined up, and if all goes well, he could be offered a job for after graduation.  His statements to the panel regarding future employment were not unrealistic.

The worst thing the panel mentioned in their deliberation was his alleged lack of community connections.  Anyone who understands law school knows that students don’t have much time for a social life.    Furthermore, the panel said that he could have established intent if he had mentioned that he was a member of a church!  ASU is a public school and the panel never asked if he was member of a church.  The panel disregarded his connections with Teach for America, Junior Law, and Community Legal Services because he could have been involved in these organizations regardless of where he lived.  Isn’t the same true for a church?

So, despite my friend following the rules, he got screwed over by the system and there’s nothing he can do but pay the more expensive non-resident tuition, reapply for residency, and hope if it’s denied, that he has a panel that decides his case on the facts and not their assumptions.

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