(KXNET) — A Rhode Island-based organization has filed a federal civil rights complaint against a Bismarck State College tuition waiver program.
“BSC’s ongoing sponsorship and active promotion of a tuition reduction program for which eligibility depends on ethnicity and race violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as well as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VI”) and its implementing regulations,” the group claims.
Bismarck State College offers at least a dozen tuition waivers and reductions based on a variety of conditions such as employment, academic achievement, law enforcement, senior citizen, and more.
BSC’s Cultural Diversity Waiver is based on the State Board of Higher Education’s Policy 820, which governs waivers and tuition assistance.
Section 820.1, approved on August 1, 2021, grants schools the ability to develop tuitions and waivers to create a culturally diverse student body.
“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,” the SBHE policy reads in part.
Other universities around the state also offer Cultural Diversity Waivers similar to BSC’s.
The Equal Protection Project, however, points to this year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harv. Coll., arguing, “There, the Court declared that ‘[e]liminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it…. The guarantee of equal protection cannot mean one thing when applied to one individual and something else when applied to a person of another color. If both are not accorded the same protection, then it is not equal.'”
The project wants the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to, “investigate BSC’s blatantly discriminatory CDW program and the circumstances under which it was approved, take all appropriate action to end such discriminatory practices and impose remedial relief.”
In response to the complaint, BSC Public Affairs Manager Juanita Lee tells KX News, “BSC complies with ND State Board of Higher Education (SBHE) policies. The BSC waiver is in compliance with SBHE Policy 820. Questions about SBHE policy can be directed to the ND University System Chancellor’s office.”
One official at the North Dakota University System (NDUS), of which the State Board of Higher Education is a part, told KX News, “Each NDUS institution develops and administers its tuition and fee waiver programs to meet their needs using locally approved procedures,” and then restated Policy 820.1, focusing on efforts to promote enrollment of a culturally diverse student body.
The Equal Protection Program is a project of the Legal Insurrection Foundation, a Rhode Island organization dedicated to “issues facing our country on school campuses, universities, businesses, and government.” The key goal is to eliminate all racial preferences in higher education and to make sure the “equal protection” aspect of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution is followed. One motto of the Equal Protection Program, as posted at its website, is, “Investigate. Educate. Litigate.”