Many colleges and universities charge more to students from out of state. Doesn't this violate the US Constitution, particularly the full faith and credit clause? Has this ever gone to the supreme court, or at least tried to?

To me it seems if it was anything else, it would be a violation. A grocery market selling soda at 2x the cost to out-of-state citizens would probably get slapped with a lawsuit right away. This might even fall under other anti-discrimination laws too.

If that example violates full faith and credit, why not out-of-state tuition?

  • 2
    Do you have evidence that courts consider vendor-set out-of-state pricing differences to be unconstitutional?
    – user6726
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 23:08
  • How do either of those violate the full faith and credit clause?
    – user3851
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 23:19
  • There are concerns, but full faith and credit has literally nothing whatsoever to do with them. It's no more relevant to this than the clause about titles of nobility.
    – cpast
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 23:21
  • @user6726 no but I am asking if it is.
    – DrZ214
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 23:28
  • I suspect that equal protection is a more likely avenue of attack than full faith and credit, but I doubt it would be any more successful. The only relevant case I know of is one where it was found that a state couldn't automatically classify G-4 nonimmigrants as nonresidents, where they were trying to do so because G-4 workers do not pay state income taxes.
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 23:29

1 Answer 1


Martinez v. Bynum 461 US 321 involves a US citizen child living with his parents in Mexico traveled to Texas in order to attend free public school. Under Texas Education Code 21.031(d), the district is allowed to deny tuition-free admission if the child lives apart from the parent or legal guardian and is present in the district "for the primary purpose of attending the public free schools". The court upheld such a residence requirement because it "furthers the substantial state interest in assuring that services provided for the State's residents are enjoyed only by residents", and "does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment nor burden the constitutional right of interstate travel". Plaintiffs argued various constitional violations, including Equal Protection, Due Process, and Privileges and Immunities, but not Full Faith and Credit. We may assume that if there were any hope of such an argument, it would have been made.

In Vlandis v. Kline 412 US 441, it was held that a state cannot permanently relegate an applicant to non-resident status for having a legal address for any time within a year of applying for admission. But the court also explicitly states:

Our holding today should in no wise be taken to mean that Connecticut must classify the students in its university system as residents, for purposes of tuition and fees, just because they go to school there. Nor should our decision be construed to deny a State the right to impose on a student, as one element in demonstrating bona fide residence, a reasonable durational residency requirement, which can be met while in student status. We fully recognize that a State has a legitimate interest in protecting and preserving the quality of its colleges and universities and the right of its own bona fide residents to attend such institutions on a preferential tuition basis.

The Full Faith and Credit Clause states:

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

This pertains to recognizing the status of evidence and rulings, between states. If New York finds that Smith is liable for a sum of money, that finding is a legal fact in all states, and Connecticut cannot say "We do not recognize the judgment of New York". The only connection between Full Faith and Credit and non-resident tuition is that both include the concept "other states".

  • Did you mean New Mexico? Or just Mexico? If the latter, then of course the lawyers did not argue for full faith and credit, since Mexico is not a US State.
    – DrZ214
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 0:05
  • 1
    @DrZ214 What on earth gave you the idea that tuition has literally anything whatsoever to do with the Full Faith and Credit clause?
    – cpast
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 0:16
  • @cpast Because it seems to discriminate based on state-hood, what else?
    – DrZ214
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 0:29
  • The individual is a citizen, but not a resident of any state. The Privileges and Immunities clause, which was used by plaintiffs, says "The Citizens of each State shall be entitled...".
    – user6726
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 0:31
  • 3
    @DrZ214 And what on earth gave you the idea that the Full Faith and Credit clause has anything whatsoever to do with discriminating based on state of residence?
    – cpast
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 0:39

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