Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In-State Tuition and the DREAM Act

There has been a lot of talk about in-state tuition and the DREAM Act over at Dream Act Portal.

It seems like there's a lot of misinformation floating around, which is to be expected from the anti-immigration crowd trying to scare U.S. citizens into opposing the DREAM Act. What I'm worried about is that they will actually believe these lies without getting better informed about it.

When it comes to in-state tuition, the DREAM Act leaves it up to the state to decide whether the student will be paying in-state tuition or out-of-state tuition. Just to clarify, this is only for students who reside in that state. For example, if a student resides in PA, it is up to this state to grant the student in-state tuition or not. If, however, that student decides to go to school in TX, they will have to pay out-of-state just like any U.S. citizen.

There are some anti-immigration people who still hate the thought of an undocumented student receiving in-state tuition, regardless of where they reside. There is an excellent post by RahmanIV over at Dream Act Portal that argues this point much better than I ever could.

The argument against offering in-state tuition to undocumented children has serious flaws. First, consider all of the 10 states that offer instate tuition to undocumented students. All of these states require graduation from instate high schools and some of them actually ask for a minimum number of years of attendance. I know NY requires at least three years of attendance in a NYS-approved high school. These states also ask for residency within the state for at least six months, with some mandating a minimum of 12 months.

Why do these requirements exist? In order to answer this question, we must consider why different tuition rates exist for public schools? The reasoning behind a lower tuition for state residents is to encourage a state's educational investment in its own residents. People who have lived within a state all their lives or for long periods of time are an asset to a state's tax rolls. Such behavior is also indicative of a resident's desire to continue remaining in the state for long periods of time. Since education is the gateway to an improved standard of living, higher earnings and thus higher taxes, the state has an implicit and explicit benefit for educating these long term residents. In-state tuition is both an incentive and a reward for a long-term resident. Yes, the state taxpayer subsidizes the in-state tuition but the state has recognized that these subsidies provide a higher rate of return in increased tax rolls.

The residency and high school graduation requirements, statutorily, satisfies the state's concerns that a person will be a long-term resident within the state. Undocumented students who have lived in a state for many, many years (as many of you have), who have paid taxes (sales taxes & property taxes are the state's largest revenues) satisfy a state's concerns of a long term resident. The 10 states have formalized this understanding in offering in-state tuition to undocumented students.

Our opposition likes to argue why their children are not offered in-state tuition. If your child has been educated, long-term, in the state and attends a public university within the state, then he/she definitely qualifies for in-state tuition. States don't offer tuition subsidies to out-of-state students because they haven't proved or satisfied concerns that these students will be long term residents of the state. Additionally, you, as a out-of-state taxpayer, haven't contributed to the other state's tax rolls. And your federal taxes don't count. A state's education system is almost exclusively funded by its own tax rolls. Federal educational spending is only a small percentage of a state's educational funds.

So ALIPAC, ask yourselves this. As a taxpayer in your state, would you be willing to allow out-of-state students, who haven't lived in your state, who haven't paid taxes in your state, who haven't graduated from high school in your state, the same subsidized tuition benefits at public universities? I believe the answer is no. And if you don't believe me, then consider Americans who have second homes in other states. Do you think they like to pay taxes for the school districts of their second homes? Why should they, their children are not attending school in those districts. Would you like to pay higher taxes for the school districts of a second home?

Immigration status and in-state tuition benefits are completely irrelevant. A person's immigration status doesn't satisfy a state's concern nor is it indicative of a person's potential to be a long term resident. Past behavior, namely continued residence within the state, provides the answer. This is why, the National Council of State Legislatures and the American Federation of Teachers support the DREAM Act.

Since in-state tuition has been excluded from the DREAM Act, ask your Senators and Representatives to go further and mandate that all states provide in-state tuition benefits to all citizens, regardless of their residence in the state. We'll just sit back and watch the national fury over why an American taxpayer should subsidize the education of another state's resident.

Thanks RahmanIV!

1 comment:

free2be said...

Awesome post!