On November 7, 2007, Daniel Sullivan, chief legal counsel of the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) directed the state’s 58 community colleges to begin admitting illegal immigrants. In defense of the policy, Martin Lancaster, outgoing president of NCCCS, issued a press release on December 3 reiterating his support for a policy he said is “not only the right law and policy, but is the right thing to do.” Among other things, Martin justified the policy by referring to the low number of illegal immigrants currently enrolled in the community college system. Downplaying popular opposition to this new directive, Martin stated: “Only 340 undocumented students out of more than 271,000 curriculum students have chosen to enroll. This is hardly the inundation of our colleges predicted by the talk show hosts, bloggers, e-mailers, and phone callers.”
Our analysis of U.S. Census data, however, suggests that thousands more illegal immigrants are already enrolled in the community college system as in-state residents. Our estimates suggest that taxpayers provide an annual subsidy of more than $36 million to illegal immigrants enrolled in the community college system.
Illegal Immigrants Enrolled as In-state Residents
- NCCCS claims 340 illegal immigrants are enrolled in the state’s community colleges. How does NCCCS know this? What verification process are they using to identify students as illegal aliens?
- The 340 figure is based on self-reporting by students. There is good reason to believe that most illegal aliens in the community college system have either refused to report their immigration status or have fraudulently claimed that they are U.S. citizens eligible for in-state tuition.
- If NCCCS knows who these 340 illegal immigrants are and where they live, why does the system continue to ignore federal provisions regarding individuals who are in this country illegally?
- Using U.S. Census data (American Community Survey 2006) we estimate there are approximately 10,000 noncitizens enrolled as undergraduates in public higher education in North Carolina. This figure has been adjusted for foreign students attending UNC System institutions and community colleges and makes adjustments for age and likely college attendance.
- In our estimation, the vast majority of the 10,000 noncitizen students are enrolled in the community college system, likely as in-state residents. Given that the state subsidizes 75 percent of in-state instructional costs, if 10,000 students are illegally enrolled in NCCCS as in-state students, taxpayers are providing an annual subsidy to illegal immigrants of about $36 million.1
In-state Tuition: The Real Agenda
Those who favor admitting illegal immigrants to NCCCS justify their position using conflicting arguments. Does admitting illegal immigrants to NCCCS have a negligible enrollment impact, or is it an important vehicle for maintaining our economic competitiveness? On the one hand, NCCCS asserts that it’s important to educate illegals so that North Carolina can remain competitive in the global economy. On the other, taxpayers are being told that the high cost of out-of-state tuition will help to keep down program costs and discourage enrollment growth. Which is it? Or do these contradictions really point toward what seems to be the true agenda here: in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.
- Given that this seems to be the case, it is important to keep the following points in mind:
– A majority of voters oppose granting in-state tuition to illegal aliens. An April 2007 Civitas Institute DecisionMaker Poll indicated that 70 percent of voters oppose giving illegal immigrants in-state tuition rates.
– Federal law requires that if the state grants in-state tuition to illegal aliens, the state must also extend in-state tuition to all U.S. citizens, regardless of state residency. Currently, out-of-state tuition is six times the rate of in-state tuition. Given current tuition levels, the proposed change would result in an annual net loss in tuition revenue of at least $36 million for the community college system.2 If, as UNC President Erskine Bowles has suggested, UNC also extends in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, costs will be even higher.
– Expect enrollment by illegal aliens to explode if the state grants in-state tuition to illegal aliens. The implementation of a similar policy in Texas led to a 900 percent increase in enrollment between 2001 and 2005. In Kansas, the policy change brought about a 500 percent increase in enrollment after only one year.
– Likewise, if in accordance with the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, the state also grants in-state tuition to legal U.S. citizens, then we can expect enrollment and costs to increase dramatically.
On the face of it, admitting illegal immigrants to North Carolina’s higher-education system is absurd because illegal immigrants cannot legally work in the United States. In reality, this new policy is nothing less than a pathway to amnesty.
Editor’s Note: For additional information, see the following pie chart: "Higher Education Enrollment in North Carolina by Non-U.S. Citizens"
1. Our methodology is also weighted to reflect NCCCS’s distribution of part-time and full-time students . Annual tuition for an in-state, full-time community college student is approximately $1,277 per year. $39.90/credit x 16 credits x 2 semesters). NCCCS sets actual per student instructional cost at $5,375.93. Thus, tuition covers approximately 25 percent of the cost of instruction. The remaining costs (75 percent) are subsidized primarily by the state. It is important to note that we are speaking only of instructional costs here. The NCCCS calculation of per student costs does not include all costs – in particular, debt service requirements on $850 million in state general obligation bonds passed by voters (1993: $250 million; 2000: $600 million), as well as debt service on bonds passed by local communities in support of their community colleges.
2. The $36 million figure derives from the following assumptions: (A) Enrollment is 10,000. (B) Population is 2/3 Part-time (6,700) and 1/3 Full-time students (3,300), Net tuition revenue loss is the sum of: (1) full-time out of state tuition x # of students – full-time in-state tuition x # of students + (2) part-time out-of-state tuition x # of students – part-time in-state tuition x # of students. That is, net tuition revenue loss = (1) + (2). Full-time student assumes 16 credits per semester. In-state tuition is $39.90 per credit. Out-of-state tuition is $233.40 per credit. Full time out-of-state tuition is $7,465 per year. Full-time in-state tuition is $1,277 per year.