Tuition lawsuit cost state $175,000

? It has cost the state nearly $175,000 to defend a law that allows some undocumented students to pay in-state tuition for higher education.

The law, enacted in 2004, was challenged by a group of parents and non-Kansas students represented by Kris Kobach, chairman of the Kansas Republican Party.

But a federal district court and appeals court dismissed the case, saying the plaintiffs lacked legal standing to challenge the law because they couldn’t show they were harmed. In other words, even if the law were struck down, those students would still pay out-of-state tuition rates, which are higher than in-state.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to review the case.

Kobach said he was considering whether to mount another legal challenge. He said a different set of plaintiffs could be used, or the case could be filed in state court.

“No court has ever reached the merits of the lawsuit,” Kobach said.

The law allows some illegal immigrants to pay the same lower tuition rates as legal Kansans at state universities, community colleges and technical schools. The immigrant student must have lived in Kansas at least three years, graduated from a Kansas high school, and seek or promise to seek legal status.

In Kansas, 243 students are receiving the in-state tuition under the law, according to the Kansas Board of Regents. Most are attending community colleges.

The legal wrangling has cost the state $164,139, according to Ashley Anstaett, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Stephen Six. She said another $10,700 bill will be paid shortly.

The firm that had represented the state in the litigation was Spencer Fane Britt & Browne of Kansas City, Mo. But Anstaett said most of the legal work had been done in-house in an effort to reduce reliance on outside counsel.