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April 20, 2007

The In-State Tuition Measure Revisited

by at 4:07 pm.

The “in-state tuition” issue for undocumented residents is back on the table.

According to yesterday’s Boston Globe, ‘the [Massachusetts] Board of Higher Education gave its stamp of approval Thursday to a document that looks favorably on legislation to let illegal immigrant students pay in-state tuition at state colleges.”

Last January, Massachusetts lawmakers defeated a measure that would have allowed undocumented residents of our state to pay the same tuition rate as other residents.

And for purposes of receiving in-state tuition, what is considered a resident of Massachusetts? According to the U. Mass website, a person is classified as a state resident if he, she or the parent of an unemancipated student have resided in Massachusetts for twelve months immediately preceding the student’s enrollment in a Masssachusetts’ college or university.

And this is where the definition gets a bit Orwellian, “ Physical presence for this entire twelve-month period need not be required as long as the conduct (my emphasis) of the individual, taken in total, manifests an intention (my emphasis) to make Massachusetts his or her permanent dwelling place.”

So we are willing to give someone who may or may not have been living in Massachusetts for the past 12 months a break in their tuition but we want to punish children who have attended high school in Massachusetts for the past 3 years and who has successfully applied and has been accepted in one of our state colleges or universities. And their crime, their parents were not able to achieve permanent resident status.

In its memorandum, the Board of Higher Education cited a Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation report from January 2006. (By the way, a very prominent member of the greater Lowell business community serves on the Foundations’ Executive Committee.) The information provided in this report debunks many of the falsehood disseminated by opponents of this measure. One of the falsehood is that this measure will cost Massachusetts money. On the contrary it will generate revenue.

These tuition and fee payments represent net new revenues for public colleges, since the campuses would incur virtually no new costs from the small number of undocumented students who would attend for the first time.

According to the Foundation’s enrollment estimates, undocumented students would constitute a minuscule 0.4 percent of the state’s more than 160,000 public college students, or an average of about 20 students per undergraduate campus. Massachusetts education officials confirm that their schools can accommodate these small numbers of additional students without incurring new costs.

So in 2007, a policy of “in-state tuition” for all residents would generate an additional $780,000 - $980,000 and by the year 2009, an additionol $2.5 M - $2.7 M.

Also, I have not been able to find any evidence that a state that applies equal treatment to its student population, documented or undocumented, has become a “haven for illegals.” This is one of the many scare tactics opponents have used in trying to advance their arguments. If someone has data, please forward me the link.

So, I am hoping that this year the debate will be based on facts and not xenophobic rhetoric. With a new Governor who campaigned on this issue, we have cause to be optimistic.

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