Illegal immigrants alienating tuition

In addition to a Florida legislative session that approved a 7.5 percent increase in college tuition, a bill aimed at providing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants failed to come to the floor of the House for a vote.

Public institutions in the state are increasingly finding it difficult to balance all their fiscal responsibilities, including providing a quality education at an affordable rate, making infrastructure improvements and addressing underpaid faculty and employees. Given the challenges facing USF and other institutions in the state, providing in-state tuition to illegal immigrants is a fatally flawed policy that should not be enacted in Florida.

It is important to realize that although State House Bill 119 (Resident Status for Tuition Purposes) failed to make it to a vote before the full House, the issue is not whether illegal immigrants should be allowed to attend public colleges but rather what classification they should fall under for tuition purposes. There is a great deal to be said for the diversity of views and opinions that students from all backgrounds bring to campuses, whether it is due to ethnicity, geographic origin or religious persuasion.

I am not for a minute saying that these students should be excluded from participating in an institution of higher learning, but I do believe they should have to pay non-resident tuition rates.

Proponents of such bills that have passed in others states, point to the compassion of policies that seek to reward illegal immigrant students for achieving in the classroom. They believe that these students should have lower tuition to allow those who wouldn’t be able to afford out-of-state tuition the opportunity to attend school. This is a great idea, until one realizes that there are several legal U.S. residents who cannot afford to go to college out of state or, in some cases, even in state.

In addition, proponents opine that it is not fair to punish these illegal immigrant students with higher rates when most likely it was their parents who brought them to the United States. Certainly I can see how one would define these students’ situations as unfair, but, you know what? Sometimes the college admissions process and life in general isn’t fair — so why should we offer special opportunities to students who are in our country illegally?

Enacting tuition breaks for illegal immigrants totally overlooks the multitude of international students who maneuver through a government bureaucracy. International students, some of whom could qualify for scholarships and federal aid if they were U.S. citizens, largely accept higher tuition rates as the supply and demand of receiving a college degree in America. Illegal immigrants, in this regard, should be no different.

The most fundamental argument against providing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants is enacting this policy rewards illegal behavior. By no means do I think that our current immigration policy is efficient or streamlined, but it is in place to provide for legal entry into the United States. If illegal entry is rewarded with tuition breaks, a greater influx of illegal immigrants may come into the country seeking the benefit. States, such as Texas, which was the first to enact such legislation back in 2001, have sought to limit this effect by requiring these students to have lived in the country for three years, graduate from a Texas high school and sign an affidavit saying they will apply for permanent residency. The problem with this sort of requirement is that it cannot guarantee that these students will remain in the United States and become contributing, taxpaying members of society after completing their college degrees.

While illegal immigrants can certainly help bring a more diverse population to the campuses of Florida public colleges, they must do so at a non-resident tuition rate. These students, while achieving a great deal to be considered for college admission, must be fiscally accountable for their education just as out-of-state and international students are today. Rewarding illegal behavior could have detrimental consequences for future illegal immigration, as well as send the wrong message to those who compete in the ever-increasing supply and demand of higher education.

Aaron Hill is a sophomore majoring in chemistry.