A guest post by Katherine Gotthardt! Thank for your very thoughtful contribution regarding this very important life issue for so many young people who were brought to this country as children.
According to Inside Higher Ed, “The California Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of a lower court’s ruling that placed in doubt the legality of a state law granting in-state tuition rates to some immigrant students who lack the legal authority to be residents of the state, the Los Angeles Times reported. While the California Supreme Court’s ruling would only be binding in that state, it could influence debates in other states with similar laws. Higher education officials and advocates for immigrants have worried that the lower court’s ruling, if it stands, could make it impossible for many of the students covered by the law to remain in college, given the large difference in tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students and the limited aid dollars available to students who are not legal U.S. residents.” (http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/01/05/qt)
The LA Times article says, “The California Supreme Court case revolves around a 2001 state law, known as AB 540, that permits the tuition breaks. Under the law, illegal immigrant students qualify for in-state rates if they attended a California high school for three years, graduated here and signed an affidavit saying they will apply for permanent residency as soon as they are eligible. The law has remained in effect during the legal challenge.” (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-immigtuition5-2009jan05,0,3248207.story)
Before considering this case, it is important to understand the admissions and financial aid systems.
First, Admissions officers look for certain criteria when admitting new students. The students who have already been admitted and continue to be meet these standards and indeed exceed some of them. These students work hard and easily pay back to society what was invested in them. “Ethan Schulman, who represents the University of California defended the benefit as a way for illegal immigrant students who have excelled in the state’s high schools to attend college.” ( http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-immigtuition5-2009jan05,0,3248207.story)
Second, students cannot qualify for financial aid without submitting at least two years’ tax returns. If the student is under 24, s/he must submit parents’ tax forms. If over 24, s/he must submit his/her own. Students who cannot produce tax documents do not qualify for financial aid.
Third, establishing residency means living in a state for a particular length of time. Residency does not equal citizenship, nor does citizenship equal residency.
Finally, one of the most popular complaints about allowing too many immigrants to enter the country, legally and otherwise, is that we are creating and supporting an underclass. But what happens if we BAR them from class? Are we not just shooting ourselves in the foot?
“Matias Ramos, who graduated from UCLA last year, said the out-of-state costs exceed the annual family income for many illegal immigrant students. Ramos, an illegal immigrant from Argentina, said that such students who attend public California colleges and universities are accepted based on their academics, talents and involvement and shouldn’t be penalized because of a broken immigration system that leaves them few options.” (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-immigtuition5-2009jan05,0,3248207.story)
Ethan Schulman said he recognized that the controversy isn’t just over the relatively small number of undocumented students who receive in-state tuition in CA. “The larger issue is a political issue, and that is how undocumented immigrants who live and work in our state are to be treated,” Schulman said. (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-immigtuition5-2009jan05,0,3248207.story)
One thing is for certain—no matter what the outcome of this case, the problem will not be fixed merely by addressing postsecondary policy.