The Facts on College for Illegals
After nearly three years of hand-wringing, the board that sets policy for the North Carolina community college system is pretty much back where it started.
The board has decided to allow illegal immigrants to pursue community college degrees, but at the higher, out-of-state tuition rate.
Last fall, the board agreed to adopt temporary rules establishing the policy. The other day, it voted for permanent rules.
Predictably, the political posturing had already begun. A couple of Republican state legislators announced a while ago their intentions to file legislation to undo the change.
The state’s lieutenant governor, Democrat Walter Dalton, who sits on the community college board, cast the lone vote opposing the policy.
Dalton explained his vote this way: “It is simply not the right time to place greater demands on our community colleges.”
Dalton must have missed the meeting where a consultant explained that the state actually makes $1,650 for every student who pays out-of-state tuition. In other words, the $7,700 out-of-state tuition is higher than the actual cost of their education.
The policy also puts illegal immigrants at the back of the admissions line, allowing them to enroll only if space is available. And they would only be admitted if they graduated from a U.S. high school, meaning that they would have likely been brought to this country by their parents rather than come here illegally on their own volition.
What’s truly astounding about this entire debate — which began in 2008 with a temporary halt to the admission of illegal immigrants because of no overriding system policy — are the numbers involved.
Illegal immigrants have never represented more than a fraction of a percent of those seeking admission. In 2008, community college officials put the numbers at 112 of 300,000 degree students.
But some people’s fear has helped create a cottage industry of groups whose livelihood relies on stoking more fear. So, even as the economy tanks and illegal immigrants head home, these groups bang the fear drum, hoping that the issue won’t fade and that they’ll have some relevance in the world.
Politicians seeking political advantage hope for the same. They will surely hold news conferences later in the spring, waving around pieces of paper that they say will save us from those few dozen people— their parents working $7.25-an-hour jobs that those same politicians and most of their constituents would never take — who want to better themselves in a community college classroom.
They’ll talk about how state policy shouldn’t encourage illegality.
And they’ll be right.
But they probably won’t talk much about how national policy does exactly that, by ignoring market forces and labor demands during the economic good times.
The state’s policy, particularly as it relates to education of illegal immigrants, is a captive of that national immigration policy.
To act as if that weren’t the case is either posturing or ignorance. And which is worse?
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association in Raleigh. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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