Tex. Higher-Ed. Funding Is Found Unconstitutional

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Texas's system of funding higher education is unconstitutional and unfairly hinders the higher-education opportunities of the largely Hispanic residents in the state's border region, a district-court jury has found.

The jury also declared last month that the current higher-education funding system has had an adverse economic impact on all residents of the region, which encompasses 41 counties between El Paso, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and the Mexican border, and in particular on Mexican- Americans. More than 20 percent of the state's population lives in the region.

The verdict did not, however, implicate the defendants--Gov. Ann W. Richards, the leaders of 13 state systems of higher education, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board--in deliberately discriminating against Hispanics.

The League of United Latin American Citizens brought the suit, LULAC v. Richards, on behalf of several Latino organizations, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and individual students.

Cameron County District Court Judge Benjamin Euresti is expected soon to enter a judgment in the case, although the defendants are mulling an appeal.

"We're still considering our next move, and we have to meet with the attorney general before we do anything," said Leticia Vasquez, assistant press secretary for Ms. Richards.

The plaintiffs charged that residents of the border region had a more difficult time in pursuing doctoral studies. They contended that there are lower spending levels on university libraries, that it takes four times longer on average to reach a comprehensive university in the region than in other parts of the state, and that only 7 of the more than 700 doctoral programs in the state are located in South Texas.

"There are essentially no choices there for students who can't move away," said Susan E. Brown, the director of higher-education programs for MALDEF. "We hope there will be the beginning of equitable funding in that part of the state, which is predominantly Hispanic and poor."

Ms. Brown said the plaintiffs will ask Judge Euresti to force the state to withhold higher-education funds until comprehensive universities are located in the region.

-- M.P.

Vol. 11, Issue 14, Page 18

Published in Print: December 4, 1991, as Tex. Higher-Ed. Funding Is Found Unconstitutional
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