LULAC v. Clements was a court case brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) on behalf of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and other Mexican-American organizations and citizens against Texas Governor William P. Clements, the Texas Commissioner of Higher Education, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and the board of regents for fifteen universities and university systems in Texas. The class-action lawsuit was filed in December 1987 in the 107th District Court of Cameron County in Brownsville. The plaintiffs charged that the state of Texas denied Mexican-American residents in the state’s border region “participation in quality higher education programs” and “access to equal education resources.” The case went to trial in 1991 with Judge Benjamin Euresti, Jr., presiding.
Plaintiffs in the trial presented evidence that showed that while 20 percent of Texans lived in the border region, only 10 percent of higher education spending was spent along the border. Furthermore, while the Texas public universities collectively offered 590 doctoral programs, only three such programs were available to students in the border region. Only 15 percent of Mexican-American students in the border region attended a public university with a master’s or doctoral program, whereas 61 percent of students outside the border region attended schools with graduate programs. The plaintiffs also showed that many higher education students along the border travelled much farther to attend a comprehensive university when compared with his or her peers in the rest of the state.
In November 1991, after eight weeks of testimony, the jury found that the Texas legislature had failed to establish public institutions of higher education along the border but that the defendants were not guilty of discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity. On January 20, 1992, Judge Euresti dismissed the jury’s ruling and issued his own ruling prohibiting the state from funding higher education until the state enacted “a constitutionally sufficient plan for funding the public universities.” He then “stayed” his injunction until May 1, 1993, in order to give the state legislature time to enact such a plan. The state appealed Euresti’s ruling to the Texas Supreme Court. On October 6, 1993, the Texas Supreme Court ruled, in what was now called Richards v. LULAC, in favor of the state.
Although the plaintiffs ultimately lost their case, prior to Euresti’s ruling, the Seventy-first Texas Legislature took action on the South Texas Border Initiative (STBI). This legislation provided funding for nine four-year colleges and universities in the border region, including the University of Texas at Brownsville, the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of Texas–Pan American (in Edinburg), the University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas A&M International University (in Laredo), Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi, Texas A&M University–Kingsville, Sul Ross State University, and the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. On December 6, 2002, the Texas legislature’s House Committee on Higher Education released a report stating that the South Texas Border Initiative had been an “overwhelming success.” Student enrollment and retention in the border region schools increased, and border region universities now offered 675 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs. Throughout the 2000s, however, funding for STBI remained an ongoing battle in light of state budget cuts. In 2015 the University of Texas at Brownsville and the University of Texas–Pan American merged to form the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, which included a new school of medicine.