Shannon Mathew/Fun Editor

Filling out college applications is no simple task. Paying for the school you were admitted to is even harder — especially when you’re charged two times more than you should have been, just as three Binghamton University alumnae were.

These students lived in New Jersey while attending BU, but they are suing because they were charged out-of-state tuition. On the face of it, this is a strange case. But according to a little-known statute enacted in 2002 — New York State Education Law Section 355 (2)(h)(8), to be exact — they should have paid in-state tuition.

The three alumnae, all from North Jersey, commuted to high school at a yeshiva in New York City, graduated, then attended BU. The 2002 law mandates that any student, regardless of residence, who graduated high school in the State of New York after attending school there for two years must be charged in-state tuition at any SUNY or CUNY school.

These students clearly met these requirements, and they are suing for the difference between out-of-state and in-state tuition. In their class-action lawsuit, they accuse BU of “deceptive and misleading conduct designed to obfuscate” the students’ ability to even find out that they were owed the resident tuition rate.

A lawyer for BU has claimed that prospective students are “the most aware of their circumstance” and thereby are responsible for knowing the law and acting on it, and that for the school to do the work itself would be unnecessarily burdensome. On top of this, the school has thus far refused to pay the tuition back retroactively.

University spokeswoman Gail Glover, while not commenting on the specifics of the case, said this to Pipe Dream: “We will mount a vigorous defense. We followed both SUNY and campus policy and our actions will be found to be appropriate.”

Quite frankly, we don’t know how she can say that with a straight face. With even a brief glance at the facts of the case, it seems obvious that the alumni deserve to be reimbursed.

Students should in no way be expected to have full knowledge of Section 355 (2)(h)(8). The ins and outs of education law should be BU and SUNY’s expertise, and for a statute like this — which essentially cuts tuition in half for those who qualify — the obvious opportunity should be put front and center. The plaintiffs in the case found no mention of the section on any BU or SUNY website (which has since been changed) and cite instances where SUNY officials didn’t inform them of the opportunity even when directly asked about it.

In that specific instance, the SUNY official was apparently unaware of the policy, but Binghamton was not. And even when out-of-state students did know, it proved exceedingly difficult to convince BU to charge correctly. Yitzchak Haberman, a sophomore majoring in accounting from New Jersey, had always known about the exception because his grandmother worked in New York public education. Haberman, when he found he had been charged full tuition for first semester last year, had to take matters up with Student Accounts. In the end, his initiative — and nothing else — overcame the administrative hurdles.

What this shows is that the University was doing one of two things. Best case, employees at Student Accounts knew as little as anyone else. Worst case, especially in light of the recently filed class-action lawsuit, the University deliberately applied the law only when they had no other option.

This University should do the easy thing — which happens to be the right thing. Instead of fighting a legal battle, BU should simply fully refund the three alumnae and whoever else comes knocking. The tuition difference is just a drop in BU’s budget bucket, but is much more than a pittance for those who were unlawfully charged.

Regardless of whether the school was negligent or deceptive, the State mandates a certain tuition and these students paid double. Section 355 (2)(h)(8) isn’t a financial aid opportunity, or a coupon, for that matter. It isn’t a back door loophole to be taken advantage of by those in the know. It’s the law.