As reported in this USA Today article from July, it is becoming increasingly difficult for undocumented students to attend college. Since 2006, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, and Oklahoma have denied in-state tuition to undocumented students, even if they have attended the middle and high school public education systems. Then there is South Carolina, which has banned undocumented students from attending public colleges and universities all together.
One argument made against undocumented students paying in-state tuition is that students who are U.S. citizens end up being treated unequally because they end up paying higher out-of-state tuition. Those who argue this cite the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which, as this article points out, “prohibits public colleges from favoring undocumented students by offering them in-state tuition rates and not extending that offer to U.S. citizens.” However, states like California, New Mexico, and New York argue that their basis for giving undocumented students in-state tuition is based on attending in-state high schools:
States are getting around the 1996 federal law, Samp said, by saying they are not discriminating based on residency but on where the students attended high school. They argue that it’s technically legal for an illegal immigrant to get in-state tuition if he or she graduated from a high school in the state, among other things.
Tension around this debate seems to keep growing as lawsuits are being brought upon states which offer undocumented students in-state tuition. But as the Latino population grows, it makes more sense to allow motivated immigrant students access to higher education than to deter their dreams of a better future. And if primary and secondary public education is guaranteed to all children regardless of their immigration status (a ruling made in a 1982 Supreme Court decision), then it doesn’t make any sense to deny these same students the same access to college.
From a recent U.S. News article:
Advocates of open access say it’s cruel and wrongheaded to deny undocumented students higher education and an opportunity to obtain legal status. They argue that these students would ultimately pay more taxes and make greater contributions as professionals and citizens.
This argument makes sense. Having a better prepared and educated workforce that contributes more to society can only benefit the economy. Banning access to undocumented students that want to enter college just instills fear in an area which should otherwise be motivating students to achieve, give back to the community, and fulfill their dreams.
Contributed by Raquel Namuche