- The University of North Dakota (UND) and UND School of Law were hit with civil rights complaints this week by the Equal Protection Project over tuition reduction programs they allege violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- “These institutions of higher education in North Dakota seem to have taken it upon themselves to institute discrimination, which is not required and is in our view unlawful,” EPP founder William A. Jacobson told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- A North Dakota State Board of Higher Education (SBHE) policy encourages institutions to use tuition waivers to “promote enrollment of a culturally diverse student body.”
Two North Dakota higher education institutions were hit this week with civil rights complaints over tuition reduction programs open only to specific racial groups.
The Equal Protection Project (EPP) filed civil rights complaints against the University of North Dakota (UND) and UND School of Law for tuition reduction programs that are “only available to non-white applicants,” according to complaints obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation. UND’s website cites the authority of North Dakota State Board of Higher Education (SBHE) policy that encourages institutions to use tuition waivers to “promote enrollment of a culturally diverse student body.”
“These institutions of higher education in North Dakota seem to have taken it upon themselves to institute discrimination, which is not required and is in our view unlawful,” EPP founder William A. Jacobson told the DCNF.
UND’s Cultural Diversity Scholarship (CDS) program is open to students from underrepresented populations, which the university defines as “African American/Black, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Latino/a/x, Hispanic American or Multiracial,” according to an Oct. 30 archive of the website. The UND School of Law offers a similar “Cultural Diversity Tuition Waiver” waiver program.
UND’s website now states that it is “currently reviewing awarding requirements for Fall 2024.”
“It’s particularly shocking to us that the University of North Dakota School of Law would do this,” he said. “Because if anybody should know better, it’s a law school.”
The complaints allege that the programs violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
North Dakota University System (NDUS) Director of Communications and Media Billie Jo Lorius told the DCNF that each institution in the system “develops and administers its tuition and fee waiver programs to meet their needs using locally approved procedures.”
SBHE policy allows institutions to offer waivers and states that, “Institutions are encouraged to use this authority to promote enrollment of a culturally diverse student body, including members of Indian tribes and economically disadvantaged students, for the benefit of all students and the academic community, to promote enrollment of graduate students and research, and for other purposes consistent with an institution’s mission,” according to the policy manual.
EPP filed a complaint in October against another North Dakota school, Bismarck State College, for a “Cultural Diversity Waiver” (CDW) program that offers a $1,250 tuition reduction per semester for “historically underrepresented” racial groups. BSC previously told the DCNF that its program is “in compliance” with SBHE policy.
After the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in higher education in June, Jacobson said there shouldn’t be any question that these programs are illegal.
“This is much worse than what Harvard and USC were accused of doing,” he said, noting the Court found taking race into consideration unlawful. “Here, you have absolute barriers based on race and ethnicity.”
“We also believe it’s extremely important that [UND] remedy this situation, not just by stopping future conduct, but by compensating students who missed out on these opportunities because of their race or ethnicity,” Jacobson said.
UND, UND School of Law and Republican North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum did not respond to requests for comment.
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