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Amnesty by degrees: The in-state tuition fraud

The Colorado General Assembly is debating a bill to allow illegal alien students to attend the state’s colleges and universities by paying regular in-state tuition. Such proposals are not only a fraud on the taxpayer, they are a fraud on the students as well.

California, Oklahoma and Texas have recently adopted such plans, but none of those laws have yet been tested in federal court. The federal law says that if a state decides to offer in-state tuition to illegal aliens, it must also offer the same tuition rate to all U.S. citizens regardless of state of residence. Since that would effectively abolish out-of-state tuition and result in a huge revenue loss to those institutions, states have been trying to find a way around this requirement.

The reason for the federal law is clear. Any Colorado parent – or any parent anywhere– paying out-of-state tuition to send a child to the University of Texas or UCLA will be outraged to discover that illegal aliens in those states can attend those universities at a lesser tuition rate.

There are three arguments used by the advocates for this proposal in Colorado. First they say the plan offers only “unsubsidized tuition,” because the illegal-alien applicants will not be eligible for state-funded scholarships. They supposedly will have to pay “full in-state tuition without discounts.” This is a cruel deception because there is no such thing as “unsubsidized” tuition. The in-state tuition does not cover the full cost of providing an education at any Colorado institution of higher learning, whether UC-Boulder or a community college. Tuition covered only 22 percent to 42 percent of the actual per-student cost of a completed two or four year degree.

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The other argument heard in support of the plan is that helping illegal alien children get a college education is a sound investment in the state’s economy. This is mistaken for two reasons. It does not help the state’s economy to add to the number of people with college degrees if those people cannot legally work in Colorado or anywhere in the country.

It also does not help the Colorado economy to provide a new incentive for illegal aliens to move to Colorado and bring their children here. The best available data suggest that illegal aliens are a drain on the state’s economy to the tune of $1.6 billion annually. It cost the state $368 million in 2010 to educate the 47,000 children of illegal alien parents now enrolled in K-12 classrooms.

The third argument for allowing illegal alien students to attend college on in-state tuition basis is that “we should not punish the children for the sins of the parents.” They were brought to the United States as children, and it now their home, so why deny them an education? I would have more sympathy for this argument if the parents were required – as a precondition for a student applying for college admission – to step forward and volunteer to be deported back to their home countries. But, of course, no one will be required to do that, so the reality is that no one is accepting responsibility for the decision to break our laws, and now we are offering rewards for that behavior as well.

There is another reason why this is a bad idea and a raw deal for Colorado taxpayers. The Colorado parents of a student applicant to the University of Colorado at Boulder or other four-year institution may well find their child was denied admission to make room for an illegal-alien student applicant in the name of “diversity.” Proponents want to deny that any citizens or legal residents will be bumped from a freshman slot by an illegal alien, but the reality is that at any given point in time, for any given semester, there are a limited number of classroom slots. Admissions have limits. It is inevitable that some students will lose out to illegal-alien students, but proponents will not admit this.

So, it is fair to ask, what is really behind these nonsensical proposals? Why would any rational person or lawmaker (they are not necessarily the same thing) want to encourage and facilitate illegal aliens to invest in a college education when they cannot lawfully get a job upon graduation? The answer is – politics. The proponents are hoping to create an irresistible pressure on the federal government to pass a new amnesty so these thousands of college graduates can “achieve the American dream.”

Proponents of in-state tuition for illegal-alien students are implicitly gambling that a new amnesty is just around the corner, and they hope to hasten the arrival of that day. Anyone who supports these proposals is joining that parade to nowhere.