• October 24, 2014

In-State Tuition Fails to Draw Illegal Immigrants to College, Study Finds

State laws that allow illegal immigrants to pay lower in-state tuition have not led to higher college-enrollment rates in that group, according to a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Ten states have passed laws allowing such students who live in the state and meet other criteria to pay in-state tuition at public colleges. Tuition for state residents is often half as much as for out-of-state students. The first states to pass such laws were Texas and California in 2001.

But laws allowing those students to pay in-state tuition have not translated into a statistically significant rise in probability for illegal immigrants to enroll in college, the researchers found.

Aimee Chin, an author of the study and associate professor of economics at the University of Houston, said there may be several reasons for that finding. Because they are ineligible for federal aid, she said, illegal immigrants may struggle to afford even reduced tuition. Earning a college degree also may not significantly improve their job prospects, Ms. Chin added, because of restrictions on employers' abilities to hire workers without proper documents.

Positive Effects for One Group

The study found that the state-tuition laws had had a positive effect on college attendance for one group of illegal immigrants: Mexican men ages 22 to 24. Ms. Chin said that women, in general, already have higher college-going rates, so men may be more responsive to financial incentives to enroll. And older students have had more time to work and save money for their education than younger students.

The study's authors say state laws allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition may have a greater effect on college enrollment over time, with more students potentially learning about the laws and becoming ready for college. The study used data on enrollment available through 2005.

If Congress passes an immigration bill known as the Dream Act, which would give illegal immigrants who are college students a clear path to citizenship, then the benefits of a college education would be much greater for those students, Ms. Chin said.

"If the Dream Act were to pass," she said, "then we're in a different policy regime, and there could be a tremendously larger response to these laws."

Comments

1. rcatmur - May 05, 2010 at 07:38 am

Without a larger reform of the U.S. immigration system, in-state tuition benefits do nothing to help undocumented students secure a job and a future in the U.S. What on earth are we waiting for??? ;-(

2. sanjaykapur - May 05, 2010 at 08:00 am

I do not understand why US citizens from out of state are forced to pay more than illegal aliens.

3. boylitas - May 05, 2010 at 10:26 am

These "illegal aliens" are, for the most part, kids who have been here with their parents in the US for many many years. Their parents have been working and often paying income taxes (using a SS number of someone else's) and sales tax for many years. The in state tuition rules usually have a provision that the student must have been in the state for at least 3 years prior to enrolling in college. An American student and their family from out of state who has been there for 3 years would also be eligible for in state tuition. Someone just can't cross the border and get in-state tuition.

4. ciaobionda - May 05, 2010 at 11:24 am

Am I missing something here? The entire concept leaves me speechless.

5. ruritania - May 05, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Using someone else's SS # is identity theft. I'm sure if the IRS received two tax returns fom 2 different names at 2 different addresses, an investigation would ensue. Illegals don't pay income tax. They pay sales tax, obviously, but they sure don't deserve tuition breaks.

6. citizenship - May 05, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Not mentioned in the article or references to the study is if the people writing the report or quoted in the article actually spoke with any members of the group affected by the legislation: the illegal immigrants.

If the illegal immigrants are not attending school how do researchers know why they are not attending? Where non-attenders polled or fill out questionnaires? All I read were assumptions. Is there more information on the how the data was collected and interpreted that would validate the assumptions?

7. greenhills73 - May 05, 2010 at 01:17 pm

I don't care if the kids grew up in this country and attended high school in my state for three or more years. Illegal is illegal. No, it may not be the kids' fault that their parents brought them here illegally, but why has it taken this long and they still don't have citizenship or a green card? Is the process really that long? No, it isn't. My daughter-in-law got hers within a relatively short time. I can guarantee you that there is nothing that affects my behavior more than a disadvantage to my child. All children are impacted by their parents' behavior throughout their lives. Illegal alliens need to teach their children to do what's right. Rewarding their children for wrong their parents' behavior just makes us enablers.

8. jenniferburcham - May 05, 2010 at 03:07 pm

Why are we rewarding illegal immigration? I do not care how long they have been in a state. Why would we reward an inllegal alien with a financial benefit that is not available to a legal resident of our country? I don't care if they were brought here by their parents. Let's say Kate, a legal citizen and resident of Illinois, really wants to attend University of California at San Diego. Kate comes from a middle class family that has worked hard and compromised to save for her college education. However, they can not cover out-of-state costs. Why should Kate be punished for her family's socio-economic status?

There is a big thrust for people to overlook the law. This results in costs for those who follow the law.

Please explain to me how this is fair, just, or equitable?

I am disgusted that our universities overlook law breakers.

9. azpride1 - May 06, 2010 at 12:30 am

First of all a good amount of undocumented people do pay taxes to the IRS and most not with another's SSN they did it with a IPIN and they mark themselves as self employed. Second universities are not overlooking law breakers they are just saying that if your are smart enough to get accepted to our university and have graduate from a USA high school and been living in the state for three years than you can also pay in-state tuition. Also if you want to get technical about illegal immigration the first person to be here in the USA illegal was Christopher Columbus this country was the Native Americans land. So anyone that doesn't come from a Native America background came from someone who was a illegal immigrant at one point or another.

10. azpride1 - May 06, 2010 at 12:33 am

First of all a good amount of undocumented people do pay taxes to the IRS and most not with another's SSN they did it with a IPIN and they mark themselves as self employed. Second universities are not overlooking law breakers they are just saying that if your are smart enough to get accepted to our university and have graduate from a USA high school and been living in the state for three years than you can also pay in-state tuition. Also if you want to get technical about illegal immigration the first person to be here in the USA illegal was Christopher Columbus this country was the Native Americans land. So anyone that doesn't come from a Native America background came from someone who was a illegal immigrant at one point or another.

11. ichrysso - May 10, 2010 at 01:06 pm

I disagree with the implication above that just because you pay income taxes, you are entitled to a taxpayer subsidy on your education. As an example, many traditional age students taking loans have not had the chance to contribute into the income tax system or have contributed very little. Anyone with a sense of fairness will note that subsidies should only be available to those who are not breaking the law by being in the conuntry illegally. To do so only punishes those who are not breaking the law and it also rewards bad behavior and incents others to break the law.

It is also important to note that in our deficit ridden country, we need to be looking at actions which will help us increase revenue and control costs. Removing this subsidy seems like a very good way to do both. I understand the amount is very little, but we should be exploring EVERY angle to get our financial books in order. To argue differently would be the same as arguing to a debted individual that they should not be clipping coupons.

If we continue to live in this fantasyland about entitlements, the United Satates will follow Greece and Spain into default.

Lastly, the correct term is "illegal alien." You should all know by now that "immigrants," by definition, are here legally. To continue using misnomers in the debate is an active attempt to misguide others who are trying to get educated on the issues at hand.

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