Who Is Hurt when Colleges Cater to Illegal Alien Students? Not the Elite

By David North on November 4, 2019

Who is hurt when America’s colleges and universities not only admit illegal aliens as students, but give them special benefits like tuition at in-state rates?

It is not the elite. It is not those whose parents are paying full tuition, or those who have no trouble being admitted.

This picture is roughly identical to the impact of large numbers of illegal aliens in the labor market — a factor that doesn’t harm the lawyers and the doctors and the investors.

In response to an inquiry from a journalist, I decided to chart out the impacts of the admission of illegal aliens, minor and major, on three different classes of citizen (and green card) college students: the marginal ones who might have trouble getting admitted, the low-income ones needing scholarships, and the elite who have no financial or academic problems.

There are two different kinds of negative impact: financial, both direct and indirect and, in admissions, the direct impact of accepting one set of students at the expense of those who were not admitted. I assumed that public resources available for higher education were either stagnant or declining, and that the institutions of interest were selective in admissions, not accepting all that applied. When all those factors and forces were put together, this is what I found:

Varying Impacts on Citizen & Green-Card Students of College Actions vis-a-vis Illegal Alien Students

College Position on
Illegal Alien Students
Impact on Marginal (M)
and Low-income (LI) Students
Impact on Elite Students
No admissions None None
Admissions as is if they were F-1 students Displacement of some M students; no impact on LIs None
Admissions as payers of in-state tuition Displaces some Ms; reduced resources for the college, generally, for LIs Indirect; reduces college resources, generally
Scholarships for these aliens Reduces scholarship money for LI students Indirect; reduces college resources, generally
Advocacy centers for these aliens, as in California, plus resident tuition and scholarships Further reduces resources for LI students and other citizen students Indirect; reduces college resources, generally

The table above, like most such graphics, is over-simplified and fails to account for the differing wealth of different institutions. The Ivy League schools are rich enough that they can afford to be generous with a limited number of illegal aliens students without impacting their overall scholarship programs. But on the question of admissions, the arrival of substantial numbers of illegal aliens students would shoulder aside an equal number of marginal citizen applicants.

Unfortunately, most media coverage of these matters is centered on heroes and heroines, students who have overcome their illegal status to be accepted on campus, rather than dealing with the subject from an objective view. In most of this coverage the whole concept that benefits provided to one group means a lack of benefits for another is rarely mentioned.