Illegal Aliens Get Tuition Breaks; Americans Pay Up



Nearly half a million illegal aliens are benefiting from in-state tuition at major U.S. public universities, reducing state revenues and crowding out American students.

The National Immigration Law Center reports that 21 states — including Texas, California, Illinois, Florida and Maryland – grant in-state tuition breaks to illegal aliens. A map shows tuition laws in all 50 states.

This issue is important to U.S. citizens, legal immigrants and permanent residents because the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition rates for most public institutions is substantial,” FAIR noted in its own report last month.

During the 2018-19 academic year, the average in-state tuition rate at four-year public schools in the U.S. was $10,230, while out-of-state tuition averaged $26,290.

Immigrant advocacy groups promoting their agendas of “diversity” and “equal access” have pushed a growing number of state universities to not only admit illegal aliens, but to grant them tuition breaks denied to legal out-of-state applicants. 

This discriminates against low- to modest-income Americans who also have college dreams. Awarding discounted tuition to 450,000 foreign nationals in this country illegally is anything but “equal.”

In fact, granting illegal aliens in-state tuition can be read as a violation of federal law. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996 (8 U.S. Code § 1623) seems clear enough:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State (or a political subdivision) for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident.”

But states are skirting the federal law through a loophole opened by California, which makes in-state tuition contingent on having completed three years of high school there, rather than on legal residency. Congress, having ceased to function in any meaningful way, has not closed this loophole.

Only three states — Arizona, Georgia and Indiana — officially bar illegal aliens from receiving in-state tuition at public universities. Two others – Alabama and South Carolina — prohibit illegal aliens from enrolling in most of their public colleges.

Public universities cutting tuition breaks for illegal aliens are not just third-rate diploma mills desperate for warm bodies. UCLA and UC Berkeley, ranked by U.S. News & World Report as America’s No. 1 and No. 2 public universities, offer generous discounts to illegal aliens who happen to be in California. While reducing tuition for students without legal status by $30,000 a year ($13,000 vs. $43,000 for legal, non-California enrollees), the UC system caps its enrollment of out-of-state Americans at 18 percent of the student body.  

The absurdity climaxes with the reality that illegal aliens – with degrees or not – are barred from legal employment in this country. Then again, no one said these tuition deals are predicated on law or logic. It’s a paradox for Americans to ponder as they work to pay off their collective $1.5 trillion in college loan debt.

About Author

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Bob Dane, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s Executive Director, has been with FAIR since 2006. His deep belief is that immigration is the most transformational determinant of where we are heading as a nation and that our policies must be reformed in the public interest. Over many years on thousands of radio, TV and print interviews, Bob has made the case that unless immigration is regulated and sensibly reduced, it will be difficult for America to reduce unemployment, increase wages, improve health care and education and heighten national security. Prior to joining FAIR, Bob spent twenty years in network radio, marketing and communications after an earlier career in policy and budgeting within the Reagan Administration. Bob has a degree from George Mason University in Public Administration and Management.

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