Illegal immigrants allowed in-state tuition

by Staff

By Paige Nordeen, Senior Staff Columnist

It’s nothing new: California is in the throes of a major budget crisis. There have been numerous attempts and countless theories attempting to pull us out of the hole we’ve fallen into. The next big thing: Recruitment of out-of-state students to attend University of California campuses. From recruiting trips to promotional efforts on social networking sites, UC schools are itching for more revenue with the higher out-of-state tuition non-Californian students will bring to the state.

Attempts to strengthen our stone-broke state seem opportune and reasonable. Out-of-state tuition accrues an extra $23,000 a year per student and will drastically improve current conditions of UC campuses and classes, according to the Los Angeles Times. UC officials have also stated the number of in-state students will not be hindered in the slightest, if at all. The UC system’s Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Lawrence H. Pitt’s, said to the LA Times, “The financial circumstances make us seek additional revenues and this is one source of additional revenues to fund the educational needs of our students,” according to The Los Angeles Times.

I couldn’t agree more. Recruiting students across the nation and overseas will eventually improve the pessimistic, down-and-out perspective the future foresees. If we need out-of-state students to help advance the performance and facilities of our UC campuses, then so be it. However, I have to raise a brow regarding California’s Supreme Court ruling allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition. If more revenue is what we need, wouldn’t out-of-state tuition costs for illegal immigrants be part of the answer? According to the Los Angeles Times, conservative Justice Ming W. Chin made a ruling allowing illegal immigrants, who attend three or more years of California high school and graduate, the opportunity to pay lower, in-state tuition. The estimated 25,000 illegal immigrants who attend UC schools could be a potential source of revenue we have yet to tap into.

Unfortunately for illegal immigrants, federal aid is not an option, so I could see a probable decline in attendance rates if tuition were to increase. Thomas A. Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said, “If (illegal immigrants) are both ineligible for aid and then face higher tuition rates, it becomes virtually impossible for students to go on to higher education,” according to The New York Times.

However, I cannot ignore the unbalanced separation between U.S. citizens and illegal residents. Tuition costs differ, yet standards for earning a degree are the same. An illegal immigrant can pay less tuition than an out-of-state U.S. citizen to attend a UC school and achieve the same bachelor’s degree: How is this theory by any means just?

If tuition costs aren’t increased, a resolution should be sought to establish a somewhat parallel standard between the two. Perhaps non-U.S. citizens could partake in a specialized set of classes or number of units in addition to the customary requirement for a bachelor’s degree. The classes could offer students education on a path toward citizenship, understanding the U.S. tax system, volunteer programs, etc. Doing so might correct some of the imbalances present between U.S. citizens and illegal immigrants.

I wouldn’t go so far right as the laws present in states such as Georgia or South Carolina — that ban illegal immigrants from attending some state colleges — or as far left as our current California laws that allow non-U.S. citizens to attend UC schools without penalties or additional requirements. Like so many issues concerning large segments of the population, the realistic solution dwells somewhere in the middle; we should extract the virtues of both sides to tackle the problem.

While ignoring a student’s legal status might further exacerbate the problem of illegal immigration by encouraging others to follow suit, completely barring these students of a higher education would itself be riddled with problems. At the same time, university students who are in this country illegally must realize their status is not only unlawful, it’s also unsustainable to their future.  By educating them about the precarious nature of their status and offering instruction about how to correct it, college campuses would also be differentiating between “citizen” students and those who are in this country illegally.

—Paige Nordeen is a media studies senior.

—This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.