Receiving low-cost tuition denied to many citizens

Phyllis Schlafly
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Posted: Mar 18, 2003 12:00 AM

The officials of some U.S. state universities and colleges and even some state legislators seem to think they can get by with openly disobeying federal law.

They are flagrantly violating the law that prohibits giving subsidized college tuition rates to undocumented aliens.

Shouldn't public officials, of all people, respect the rule of law?

Texas, California, New York and Utah have legislatively thumbed their noses at federal law by passing state laws that grant in-state tuition rates to people living in the United States illegally.

Laws in each of those states provide at taxpayer expense a benefit to undocumented aliens that is denied to U.S. citizens from the 49 other states. The monetary difference, which varies from state to state, can be as much as $11,000 per year. This windfall is given even though most state governments are facing budget shortfalls caused by a stagnant economy.

Federal law, Title 8, Chapter 14, Sec. 1623, states: "an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State ... for any post-secondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident."

There was no misunderstanding about what this statute means, either when Congress passed it, or when in 1996 President Clinton signed it into law. Conference Report 104-828 stated, "this section provides that illegal aliens are not eligible for in-state tuition rates at public institutions of higher education."

The universities think they can circumvent this law by simply not asking student applicants whether or not they are legally in this country. The Immigration and Naturalization Service said there is "no reason" for the INS to issue regulations because, according to a representative, the agency believes that undocumented aliens should be removed from the country.

In June 2001, Texas became the first state to pass a law giving in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants, although some universities in Texas, California and New York had been quietly doing this during the 1990s.

California Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, vetoed a state bill in 2000 to give in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens, but he signed such a bill in October 2001. The California Board of Regents then voted 17-5 to make this windfall available at the University of California.

Dissenting Regent Ward Connerly [Townhall.com columnist] said the result is "just flat wrong: Every citizen living legally in the other 49 states will be charged a higher tuition rate in California than illegal immigrants who happen to be in California."

California universities now make a student from Arizona pay nearly four times as much as an illegal alien.

At California's state universities, in-state students and undocumented aliens pay an annual tuition of

$1,839, out-of-state students pay $7,380; at the University of California Berkeley, in-state residents and undocumented aliens pay $3,859, out-of-state students pay $15,000.

The difference is subsidized by the highly taxed citizens of California and the highly taxed citizens from the 49 other states who provide all kinds of federal student benefits but whose own children are discriminated against.

The advocates of this discrimination claim they want undocumented aliens to get a college education so they can become productive residents. But undocumented aliens cannot legally hold a job in the United States.

Qualifying for in-state tuition is only the start of unintended consequences. Given the economic status of most undocumented aliens, many qualify for federal or state financial aid. Texas allows this.

Connerly asked, "Why would any legal foreign student pay out-of-state tuition at a UC campus when by becoming illegal he or she can get a huge annual tuition cut of about $11,000?" Connerly pointed out that U.S. citizens already provide undocumented aliens with billions of dollars of taxpayer-paid benefits at public schools and hospitals.

State universities in New York tried to comply with the federal law last year, but a state law that approves in-state tuition for undocumented aliens overruled them.

Utah followed suit with a similar law, and legislation is currently being considered in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Virginia and Washington.

On the other hand, Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum, a Republican, vetoed a provision to violate the law. Public officials in Virginia may be on guard because seven of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001, held Virginia driver's licenses. Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican, issued a memo stating that undocumented aliens are not eligible for in-state tuition.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, are trying to repeal the federal law. Their bill is elegantly titled the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors).

U.S. taxpayers should wake up and see how they are being ripped off by the high costs of tolerating undocumented aliens in our midst.