Proposed laws to allow undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition rates have generated such controversy in recent years that it’s downright embarrassing. Legislation like the DREAM Act is intended to make the American Dream possible. Work hard, go to school, and college– along with a ticket to middle-class society– will be in your reach. That’s what we tell our kids, that’s what the president tells the nation, and it’s on every billboard and magazine everywhere you look.
Face it: we live in a college-for-all society. Everyone believes it should be easier to get into the college of their choice, and easier to afford it. EXCEPT when it comes to the poorest of our citizens. To them we say: No college for you! (Read it as if the Soup Nazi is speaking).
The 1996 PRWORA welfare reform did this, making it near impossible for moms of young children who need financial assistance to participate in higher education. Now we witness these ‘dream’ statutes in states like California and Oklahoma, among others. Despite solid evidence that we can increase the college-going rates of Latinos in this country simply by allowing the undocumented among them to enroll in college at in-state rates, too many of our fellow citizens are up in arms about the very idea.
These “college is for SOME, not for all” people are missing a key cause of this recession. Income inequality is not good for the country. It doesn’t make you safer, or help you sleep better. Keeping people out of college helps ensure they’ll make the lowest of wages, depend on the government for benefits, and have more trouble raising healthier, happier kids. Our goal should be to find cost-effective ways of moving more residents out of poverty– and giving them a small price break on tuition seems a good way to do that.
Let’s be clear–undocumented immigrants aren’t going to leave America just because they can’t get in-state rates at local colleges. Because of jobs and family ties, they’ll continue to live here. But the odds are good that they will never be college graduates. As a result, they’ll contribute far less to our economy, and drain government resources more.
But they will STILL BE HERE. Think about it….