$7,845 versus $25,945

$7,845 versus $25,945

If you’re like many smug out-of-state undergraduates, you came to UVA proudly boasting your Pennsylvania pedigree, and you spent your first year finding subtle ways to constantly remind everyone that you got into UVA even though you don’t hail from Virginia and can’t dribble a ball or run a 4.6-second 40 to save your life, which means, you’re, like, smart. But bright one that you are, you quickly realized that your Yankee status came with a pretty onerous out-of-state tuition bill. Picking your pocketbook over your pride, you thought to yourself, Wait, I love the Old Dominion! And I want to stay—maybe open up a froyo shop after graduation, pour wine at Oakencroft or play my flute for pennies on the Downtown Mall. And, hold on—I’ve been paying Virginia income tax on my barista gig at the Mudhouse for the last year, so why shouldn’t I get in-state tuition, too?

UVA Pres John Casteen’s office received an application filed by a student seeking in-state status (and a hefty tuition break); having denied the application, the University is now being sued

Well, if you’ve had these thoughts, slow down, because many Virginia transplants before you have tried and failed to satisfy UVA’s in-state tuition test and at least one has resorted to suing for it. Under Virginia law, to become eligible for UVA’s in-state tuition, you must prove "by clear and convincing evidence" that you abandoned your previous domicile in favor of a Virginia domicile for at least the past year and that your parents no longer claim you as a dependent or give you "substantial financial support." And if those vague terms don’t have you deterred, here’s another weight stacked against you: The relevant statute allows the school to presume that anyone under the age of 24 does receive "substantial financial support" from his parents.

Despite these odds, Matthew Goodhart, a rising UVA senior from Georgia, applied for in-state tuition in 2005 and again in 2006, claiming he was financially independent, domiciled in Virginia with the intent to remain and, in the second application, that he had a full-time job in Virginia for at least a year. Still, UVA denied both applications even after he appealed all the way to the President’s office. He is now suing the University in Albemarle Circuit Court in separate lawsuits related to each of those applications claiming the University misapplied the statute and even violated his constitutional due process rights in the process. Judge Moon dismissed an earlier lawsuit Goodhart filed in federal court on grounds that it was a state issue.

Barry T. Meek, who represents the University in these matters, says the case has "no merit." He also says the University receives thousands of applications annually for in-state tuition. He couldn’t comment on how many actually get it, but he says students rarely appeal their denials all the way up to the President’s office, and to his knowledge, no other student has ever appealed to the Circuit Court.

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