A recent memo from the North Carolina Community College System (NCCS) to community college presidents, deans and admissions officers directs that all community “colleges should immediately begin admitting undocumented individuals.”
The new policy reverses an August 2004 directive from the same office that said, “Undocumented immigrant admissions shall be at the discretion of the local institution as long as the policies and practices are consistent with the provisions of the federal and state laws and regulations in Title 23 of the North Carolina Administrative Code.”
The author of the memo, David J. Sullivan, legal counsel for the NCCS, cites a 1997 advisory opinion issued by then-Attorney General Mike Easley’s office as the reason for reversing course. According to Sullivan, the 1997 ruling found that community colleges cannot “impose nonacademic requirements on admissions to its programs.” Based on this opinion, the NCCS has concluded that immigration status is a “nonacademic requirement” and should have no bearing on whether a student can attend any of the state’s 58 community colleges. Instead, colleges are to maintain an “open-door admission policy to all applicants who are high school graduates or who are at least 18 years of age.”
Commented Civitas Institute President Jack Hawke about the new directive: “Forcing colleges to admit illegal aliens is bad public policy and raises important constitutional questions. A full review of the attorney general’s 1997 advisory opinion is necessary to determine if it provides legal justification for this action. I urge Attorney General Roy Cooper to review this issue as soon as possible.”
Dr. Robert Luebke, senior education policy analyst with the Civitas Institute, also raised questions about the cost of the policy as well as its benefit to North Carolina’s economy. “According to our initial estimates, the new policy will cost the state $6 million to $8 million dollars per year. This cost will rise as enrollment expands. More to the point, these students cannot legally work in North Carolina. Subsidizing the education of students who can only work using a forged or stolen Social Security card is absurd. Or, are we telling kids that it’s okay to break the law? This new policy is asking our community colleges to ignore the fact that these students are here illegally.”
According to the new policy, illegal immigrants will be assessed out-of-state tuition. On average, out-of state tuition covers only 50 percent to 70 percent of the total cost to educate each student. Illegal immigrants will also remain eligible for general tuition waivers granted by the General Assembly for such programs as Learn and Earn. Illegal immigrants are not eligible to receive federal or state financial aid.
Note: See also this fact sheet for additional information, as well as the original directive attached below.