Good news for the undocumented, bad news for citizens?
On the heels of an extremely dramatic election in which immigration was (arguably) perhaps not fully addressed, in favor of issues such as the economy, it has been leaked that Massachusetts plans to immediately effect in-state tuition rates at all state colleges and universities for all undocumented students, on the condition that they procure a work permit. This will save undocumented students at least half or even more of the money that they would have spent on college tuition, opening up the possibility of a college education for a much larger population of students. Even though it will only take effect in one state, this measure is, without a doubt, a huge leap forward for immigrant rights in America. It is likely that more states will follow this trend, allowing undocumented students to study and pay the same rate of those citizens who have been a resident of a given state for the required length of time.
This measure means higher numbers of students graduating from college, hopefully equipped with skills applicable to the workforce. Although it’s not certain what the legal status of the undocumented students will be when they eventually graduate, this measure was likely passed with an optimistic view of immigration reform; in the hopes that these immigrants will choose to stay in the US and contribute their skills to the workforce here – start companies, create jobs, hire people, make scientific discoveries, etc. These students, if allowed, could be a stimulus to our economy and raise the standards of our universities.
This is the best case scenario. There are a few drawbacks, and those who favor a conservative approach to immigration have not been afraid to explain just what these drawbacks are. If the undocumented are not allowed to stay in the US past graduation, the government has essentially invested their money (perhaps quite a bit of money) in students that will be contributing their skills to the economies of other countries. In a time of record-high federal deficit, some wonder if this is the best move, when the pay-off is not guaranteed. In addition, some interpret this investment in undocumented students as directly affecting students who are citizens – perhaps this will mean that fewer will be accepted, larger class sizes, more impacted programs, etc.
Although the effects of this measure are unclear, it’s hard to argue with the fact that undocumented students deserve this opportunity. It will, of course, only apply to students who can be accepted to the colleges and universities in question – those who are intelligent, involved, and motivated. These students have worked just as hard as the legal residents have to get accepted to college, and it seems that morally, there should be no debate. It’s not a form of welfare or a “government handout.” These students have earned the opportunity of an education, and likely don’t have the money to pay out-of-state rates.
This measure will surely benefit the undocumented in Massachusetts… but how will it affect legal residents in the state and the rest of the country? Only time will tell.