More Illegal Immigrants in Colleges

Patrick McGee, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 21

Texas public colleges have seen a spike in enrollment of illegal immigrants since state lawmakers approved a measure allowing them to pay lower in-state tuition rates.

The number of illegal immigrants attending public institutions, particularly community colleges, has increased ninefold since the change was adopted, according to Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board data.

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 since adopted similar measures.

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, who co-sponsored the Texas 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.

The law also allows these students to be eligible for state financial aid, but it is not known how many benefited from state loans and grants.

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The growth could be sharper because it appears that some institutions did not report the enrollment of these students to the state. The highest growth was at the University of Houston, which enrolled 146 illegal immigrants in fall 2004, and Dallas Community College, which had 744 enrolled.

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 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.

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