Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems

By Jessica M. Vaughan on April 28, 2009

NC Community College Report on Illegal Alien Students Stresses Minor Financial Gains for System, Not the Rule of Law.

Also written by David North.

A newly released consultant‘s report on the admission of illegal aliens to the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) stresses small scale financial gains for the system and debatable benefits of ‘access’, as opposed to the rule of law and the interests of citizens and legal residents of the state.

But if the North Carolina community college system is going to ignore the central fact of the illegal presence of these students just to make a few dollars, it might as well consider auctioning off admission slots to the highest bidder – an idea that is equally dubious in principle, but bound to generate even more money for the system.

The educational policy specialists, the Maryland-based JBL Associates, hired by the NCCCS found that the system could make a profit of $1,700 a year per full-time student if it admitted illegal aliens and charged them out-of-state, rather than in-state tuition rates, and that this would provide substantial economic and social benefits to the state. Currently the NC system does not permit the admission of illegal aliens students for any amount of money.

According to the report, there were 111 illegal alien students enrolled in NC community colleges in 2007-08, both full-time and part-time. (The report provides a table with the number for each school.) This is a tiny drop in the bucket of overall enrollment -- the equivalent of 62 full-time enrollees out of a total system-wide FTE population of 193,000 students.

While it did not investigate in any detail, the report also suggests that some illegal alien students might not enroll at all with the higher tuition rate because it would be a financial struggle. This finding would seem to counteract any financial gain to the system in seeking to collect higher tuition from illegal aliens.

The report did not flatly recommend the admission of the illegal aliens, but it articulated a set of "key issues" in such a way as to lead decision-makers in that direction, more specifically the admission of system-recognized illegal aliens as students who would pay at out-of-state-rates.
The tuition paid by such students, when compared to the average cost of the education, the report noted, would create a situation in which "the average difference was negative, -$1,680." That‘s academic-speak for an annual profit, per student, of $1,680.

The big elephant in the room was the report‘s total disregard of the nation‘s immigration policy as a variable. It makes little sense to use a taxpayer-supported institution to train people who are here in violation of our laws and who cannot work legally in the society, cannot vote, and are continuously subject to deportation back to their home country.

It is apparent throughout the report that the consultants have no professional expertise in immigration law or policy. For example, in describing the requirements for admission to other states‘ community colleges, the report approvingly quotes Virginia‘s law that all illegal aliens in that state seeking community college admission must "provide an affidavit that he/she has filed an application to become a permanent resident [alien], or will do so as soon as he/she is eligible..." It does not bother to mention that the vast majority of illegal aliens in the country can never qualify for legal residence, under current law, and that filing requirements such as the Virginia provision are a fig leaf to enable illegal aliens to obtain benefits typically reserved for legal residents.

The JBL analysis displays a perceptible bias toward admission of illegal alien students. It discusses the concept of “access” for students as an unqualified benefit to the state, without discussing any possible implications or downsides for citizen or legal residents. For instance, if illegal aliens are admitted, does that decrease access for citizens or legal residents? Does the admission of illegal alien students create an incentive for them to remain in violation of the law? Are there other fiscal costs to the state of their presence, for example in health care or social services? None of these issues are even mentioned, much less analyzed.

In addition, the report downplays the importance of federal laws regarding illegal alien admissions and tuition. For instance, while it notes that federal law prohibits states from offering in-state tuition to illegal aliens unless U.S. citizens can also receive it, the study also seems to endorse the highly questionable regulatory loopholes some states have created to evade this law. These loopholes have been challenged successfully in court, and thus would not seem to qualify as a “best practice” or serious policy option.

Only part of the report has been released; access to certain sections requires permission from the issuing authorities. A reader is told to "Submit request to NCCCS" with no clue as to whom, in that vast organization, one is to make the request.