Governor proposes in-state tuition for illegals

by Beacon Staff • February 20, 2008

To circumvent a State Legislature that, after heated debate in the Senate, failed to pass the same bill in 2006, Patrick will have to draft a regulation, which may be used in place of the law it resembles until it can fully pass into legislation.,Gov. Deval Patrick announced a proposal this month that would allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities.

To circumvent a State Legislature that, after heated debate in the Senate, failed to pass the same bill in 2006, Patrick will have to draft a regulation, which may be used in place of the law it resembles until it can fully pass into legislation.

Passing a regulation would require only the signatures of the 11 members of the Board of Higher Education.

California was the first state to sign off on a similar bill in 2001 with New York, Texas, Illinois and Oklahoma following in the Golden State's footsteps.

Patrick's proposal allows illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition in Massachusetts, potentially saving them thousands of dollars in college fees.

Emerson's Vice President of Public Affairs David Rosen said the college, a private institution, will not offer tuition breaks to illegal immigrants.

"State colleges offer differentiates for in-state residents and non residents," Rosen said in an e-mail message. "Emerson does not offer breaks or different tuition rates for any group, although it does offer financial assistance to many low-income families."

The National Center for Education Statistics, a division of the US Department of Education, reported on their official Web site that public, four-year, degree-granting institutions in Massachusetts charge an average of $18,000 per year for out-of-state tuition while in-state residents pay $9,300. Illegal immigrants may also attend private institutions for almost triple the cost of in-state tuition at a public college.

Senior Michael McManus, who works for Obama for America, said he feels Patrick is making good on his campaign state economy by affording illegal immigrants in-state tuition and increasing the amount of college-educated immigrants.

"The logic behind this is that if they or their parents are not working legally, they are not making enough to afford the $10,000 per year to go to UMass without the in-state tuition break," the organizational and political communication major said in an e-mail message. "This means that by charging less, UMass will actually net more profit by educating more students."

McManus said he feels tuition breaks for illegal immigrants are also an issue of fairness.

"Essentially, we shouldn't deny the American dream to honest, hardworking children because of a crime their parents have committed," he said.

Though the proposal affects a small population, Massachusetts' illegal immigrant enrollment is expected to rise from 100 students in 2006 to 600 students in 2009, according to Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

Widmer told The Boston Globe the state could benefit from educating immigrants who can then contribute to the Massachusetts workforce.

He said his organization estimated that by 2009, the Bay State's public colleges that allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition would gain $2.5 million per year in college fees.

Jonathan Gabso, a sophomore and self-described libertarian, said he believes tuition for illegal immigrants is not a state problem, but one to be taken care of by independent philanthropists.

"Dissolve the state-to-school connection and allow a school's private trustees to carry more weight in decision making," the radio production major said in an e-mail message.

"If an alumni at a state school is sitting on loads of cash that he intends upon giving to that school, then he should be encouraged to meet with the kinds of students that Patrick plans on giving in-state tuition to," he said.

In 2006, a bill failed to pass in the Massachusetts House of Representatives which would have allowed children brought into the country illegally to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities, as long as they have been Massachusetts residents for at least three years, graduated from a local high school and signed a sworn affidavit that they are applying for U.S. citizenship.

Senior Elizabeth King, who describes herself as a socially-liberal libertarian, said she thinks the state's first priority should be working for its law-abiding citizens, who pay taxes and high college tuitions.

"Granting these students in-state tuition would be rewarding them for bypassing the law," the writing, literature and publishing major said. "I would absolutely picket against it, maybe not at the White House, because I don't have the funds to go so far, but at the local level."

Two weeks ago, members of the Massachusetts Alliance of College Republicans had a fiery response to the proposal, marching and protesting in front of the State House to voice their disagreement.

The group has 46 factions across the state and students from both public and private institutions such as Boston College, Northeastern University, Simmons College and the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth were among those in the crowd.

Freshman Greg Hurst, an organizer for the new Emerson Republican and Libertarian group, voiced his own concerns.

"Illegal immigrants have no right to even live in this country, never mind receive government money that they don't pay taxes toward for an education that they have no right to," the organizational and political communication major said.

An Emerson employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said her son's 1992 acceptance to Boston University was retracted because he did not yet have legal status.

She said he was trying to obtain a green card, a process that took the family 15 years total.

The employee, who came to Massachusetts from Central America 17 years ago, said her son was originally awarded a scholarship for his academic and leadership achievements at Charlestown High School, such as serving as class president for two years, being an ROTC member and athlete and receiving honors in math, science and history.

He was forced to take a year off and wait for his green card. He was eventually accepted to Emerson and graduated with a masters in advertising.

"BU said, 'You don't have a green card. Come back when you do,'" she said. "But for some people it means you can't go to college for 15 more years. For other people, their brilliant talents are wasted because they don't have an opportunity to go to college. It's not preferential status. It's equality in education."

The employee, who said she recently made a speech on this issue at Suffolk University, hopes Patrick is successful in passing his proposal because she feels it is in the state's interest to educate future workers that public high schools have invested in for years.

"Once they graduate, they will be paying more taxes as opposed to high school drop outs," she said.

"I'm very in favor of this bill because it will open up the doors to many deserving students to improve their lives and make better contributions to this nation. We have the same dreams as the immigrants that ca

me in the 1770s. Why not give us an opportunity?"