Texas public colleges have seen a spike in the enrollment of illegal immigrants since the Legislature approved a measure allowing them to pay in-state tuition rates.
The number of illegal immigrants attending public institutions, particularly community colleges, is nine times higher than when the change was adopted, according to data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
In 2001, Texas became the first state to offer in-state tuition and state financial aid to illegal immigrants. Eight other states, including California and New York, have adopted similar measures.
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, who cosponsored the legislation, said she’s pleased to see the strong enrollment patterns.
‘Every single student that gets a higher education is going to be able to earn more. That’s a great big economic stimulator,’ she said.
Texas residents would pay an average of $4,847 in tuition and fees for the coming school year at public universities, far less than the $12,927 charged to out-of-state residents. At community colleges, the average in-state cost would be $1,631, compared with $3,405 for nonresidents, according to the coordinating board.
The law also makes illegal immigrants eligible for state financial aid, but it is not known how many have benefited from state loans and grants.
Late last year, the state comptroller reported that more than 82,000 freshmen were denied state grants because there was not enough money for all eligible students.
Groups like the Washington, D.C.-based Federation for American Immigration Reform oppose giving such opportunities to illegal immigrants.
‘These are people illegally in the country who are not entitled to work legally, so investing higher education in them makes no sense,’ said Jack Martin, the organization’s special-project director.
‘Secondly, because admission spaces are limited, Texas residents are being denied entry . . . and third it makes no sense to ask Texas taxpayers to support with in-state tuition persons who do not belong in the country,’ he said.
By fall 2004, nearly 3,700 illegal immigrants were enrolled and paying in-state tuition at Texas’ public institutions, according to the state data. In fall 2001, the first semester this benefit was available, 393 illegal immigrants paid in-state tuition.