Auburn University faces another $10 million lawsuit alleging that it discriminates against students who move to Alabama to work and attend school.
The lawsuit, filed in Lee County Circuit Court by Auburn attorney Mark Tippins, asserts that former Florida resident Nicholas Pero was told in 2017 by university admissions employees that he could establish Alabama residency to qualify for the lower tuition rate available to the state’s residents.
The filing follows on the heels of the lawsuit Tippins filed last fall for a Valley man and his daughter alleging the same conduct by the university. Jeffrey Prosser and his daughter Brooke also seek $10 million.
Auburn’s tuition costs posted online for the upcoming 2020-21 year is nearly $6,000 per semester for in-state students, nearly $16,000 per semester for out-of-state tuition. A routine academic year normally consists of two semesters.
Pero did as instructed by university employees, buying property and working full time in Alabama for more than a year, Tippins said. It was part of Pero’s long-term plan to establish a branch of his family’s electrical engineering business in the state.
However, when Pero sought the lower tuition rate last year, the university refused to give him the in-state rate by citing residency rules put in place after Pero’s initial consultation about how to qualify for the lower rate, according to Tippins.
In essence, Tippins alleges that Auburn University and its employees changed the rules in order to force Pero and others who claim residency to continue pay three times as much to attend the school.
“Auburn has adopted an unethical, financially lucrative business model for the university,” Tippins told the Opelika-Auburn News Monday. “I want Auburn to do the morally correct thing and take the high road. This is wrong.”
Tippins said university officials are willing to discourage Pero and hundreds of others from seeking in-state tuitions, even if it means the occasional lawsuit.
It’s “comparable in nature” to Ford Motor Company’s decision in the early 1970s to forego recalls of its Pinto models to fix a known mechanical defect, opting rather to take its chances fighting possible lawsuits rather spending the money to fix the cars, Tippins said.
The university will formally be served in the case Monday, he said earlier.
An Auburn University spokesman said Monday that the school “does not comment on pending litigation.”