Thanks to David Schraub over at The Moderate Voice, I found this piece that seems to endorse giving tuition breaks to illegal aliens, allowing them to pay the same in-state rate as residents of that state.
It’s a tough argument to refute. It’s hard not to feel compassionate for these people, who came to the United States illegally as children and now wish to continue their lives like their peers, going to college and furthering their education.
But it doesn’t change the fact that it is wrong.
I’m going to use the specifics of the defeated Massachusetts proposal, but I believe the general principles hold universally.
The advocates say that the measure will merely “level the playing field” and give students who have attended Massachusetts schools the same breaks as their classmates. The question is not about admission, as they can already attend schools without fear of their illegal status being exposed. The question is whether they should pay the full rate, or the half-price rate residents pay.
First, let’s look at the “punishing the children for the sins of their parents” argument. This is quite easily demolished by pointing out that these “children” are, in nearly all cases, at least 18 years old — legal adults and responsible for themselves and their actions and decisions. They can try to make right their status, or not — but either way, they are liable for it.
Second, almost no college student these days pays their own way. It is the parents that scrape, save, and borrow up the skyrocketing costs of college. By giving the students access to the lower rate, that is a de facto benefit to the parents in many of those cases.
Now, for other reasons.
One Massachusetts legislator (and I’m ashamed to say I don’t recall her name) brought up another excellent point. During the debate last week, she looked up at the gallery, filled with self-confessed illegal aliens who wanted the benefit. She pointed out that under federal law, to receive any sort of college assistance, including lowered tuition breaks, the student has to register for selective service. How many of them had done so? And how many requirements placed upon American citizens and legal aliens, legitimate immigrants, were they exempt from following?
Secondly, it is discriminatory. It would grant illegal aliens rights not available to American citizens. For example, contrast a Brazilian living illegally in Lowell, Massachusetts with a student of the same age who lives in Nashua, New Hampshire. Both wish to attend UMass-Lowell. The Brazilian would pay about half the tuition as the American, who (for the sake of argument) not only has a part-time job in Massachusetts, but whose father commutes into Boston for his job. So the Brazilian, who cannot legally work and pay taxes, would gain benefits inaccessible to the New Hampshirite who (along with his father) pays Massachusetts income taxes.
Thirdly, college enrollments are finite resources. Schools can only admit so many students each year. Each slot taken by an illegal alien represents an American or legal alien that has been denied admission.
Fourth, college budgets are also finite resources. An illegal alien who gets the in-state tuition represents a hunk of money the college will not get. In Massachusetts’ case, the difference is about $9,000. Taking the proponents at their word (and I don’t) and saying that the measure would only affect 400 students a year, that’s $360,000 a year taken from the college’s coffers.
Fifth, the rationale behind granting in-state students a tuition break is based on two principles. The first is that residents already pay for part of the school’s costs through their taxes. The second is that they anticipate that the graduates will remain in the state, earning their living and paying taxes — in a sense, the tuition break is an investment in the student earning more — and, ultimately, paying more taxes.
In the Massachusetts example, there is no requirement that the student legalize their status. It only requires that they “pursue” it. If they fail before they graduate, then they are a degreed illegal alien. Which means that they cannot legally work in the United States, and therefore cannot pay income taxes.
Sixth, it’s an insult to those who actually follow the rules and obey the laws and come to the United States legally. Every year, we take in literally thousands of students from all around the world and give them some of the finest educations in the world. Where is the incentive for them to follow the rules, if they find themselves countrymen who not only didn’t bother jumping through all the hoops, but are paying half the tuition?