College Education: The Newest Incentive for Immigration Violators?

Desk and chairs in classroomWhen most people think of incentives that induce foreign migrants to violate U.S. immigration law, they think of jobs. There is no doubt that employment is the biggest factor drawing illegal aliens into the United States. But as the recent waves of unaccompanied alien minors flooding the border have shown, a free public education is also a key attractor. And as more and more states begin providing in-state college tuition to illegal aliens, a relatively affordable post-secondary education will also become a significant draw.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 20 states now offer in-state tuition to some or all illegal alien students. Leading the way, California not only provides illegals with in-state tuition, it also has a special student loan program that is only open to illegal aliens.

Why would anyone want to endure the down-sides of being an illegal alien for discount college tuition? It’s a simple process of balancing risk against reward.

In terms of risk, there are increasingly fewer negatives to being an immigration violator. At least twelve states and the District of Columbia give drivers licenses to out-of-status aliens. Hundreds of sanctuary cities have sprung up across the nation.  And, as USA Today reported in 2012, there are growing numbers of educated illegal aliens earning significant wages by working as independent contractors. (This doesn’t render them legal, but employers aren’t obligated to verify that independent contractors have work authorization.)

In terms of reward: 18 of the world’s top 25 universities are American.  And people holding a U.S. college degree have an edge in an increasingly global job market. University Language Services, a company that assists international students with college applications states, “In the international marketplace, an American college degree is literally a valuable commodity.”

No lines, no waiting, a degree and a job; all at the expense of the American taxpayer. The U.S. is using its public university systems to make an offer that much of the world can’t refuse.

About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.


  1. avatar
    Shirley Olivas on

    We are literally being invaded because we pay people to come here. We are giving our country away. Blacks are angry because all we have given them is a welfare ck to replace a father in the home. We give the American Dream to immigrant, both legal and illegal. Democrates operate like this to get votes! Hillary will ruin our country even more than Obama has already.

  2. avatar

    Vetting of Chinese Transcripts for American Student Replacement College Admission

    Is another impossibility to prove. Foreign paperwork can easily be forged and is. This raises tuition costs drastically BTW for Americans.

  3. avatar

    Not only that but she will no doubt include illegals among her “free” [i.e. taxpayer paid] college education for everyone and anyone. Or will she? To compete with Bernie she made that promise during the primaries, but one of the WikiLeaks from last winter showed her telling supporters behind closed doors that his voters expected too much “free stuff” including college education. So who knows with her? Deny that she’s for open borders but tell Brazilian bankers in private in a quarter million speech that’s exactly what she favors. Lying seems to be her hobby.