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Is Higher Education so Elitist that Undocumented Students Don’t Deserve a Chance?

LatinaLista — This past Christmas season was tight for anyone in college or who is footing the bill for college tuition.

With books and fees, today’s tuition hits the majority of families hard. So, it’s to be expected that those families who feel the pinch are going to resent anyone they feel is getting a free ride at the expense of their pocketbooks.

That’s pretty much been the attitude of some people when they find out that undocumented students are paying in-state tuition at their local colleges.

It doesn’t matter that these students most probably lived the bulk of their lives within that state, attended the local elementary, junior high and high school and learned the same lessons as everyone else — go after your dream and make it real.

Starting in two weeks, college students in Arizona, who are undocumented, are going to have an extremely difficult time of making even their basic dream of getting a good education difficult.

That’s because Arizona voters passed a law, Proposition 300, that triples college tuition for undocumented students. For example:

At Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, undergraduate out-of-state tuition per year currently is $15,846 compared with the in-state fee of $4,686.

At Northern Arizona University, out-of-state tuition is $13,487 compared with $4,546. At University of Arizona’s main campus, out-of state tuition is $14,960 compared with $4,754.

At Maricopa Community Colleges, the price tag for a full-time, out-of-state student is $3,360, up from $780.

How grossly unfair is this law for those undocumented students who have struggled the past 4 years balancing jobs and study to almost reach their goal, only to have it snatched away from them when it’s finally in reach.

Has education become so elitist that students who deserve to be in those college classrooms must be driven out because their parents wanted a better life for them and couldn’t wait to escape their poverty to begin it?

Unfortunately, more states are looking to follow Arizona’s lead — but it would be the biggest mistake this country could make in terms of our future.

Yet, I guess it’s not all that surprising in a country that has become renown for wasting its own resources.

And today’s college students are one of the most vital resources we have going for us.

As it stands now:

* “The scientific and technical building blocks of our economic leadership are eroding at a time when many other nations are gathering strength” — National Academies.
* In 1970, the United States produced more than half of the world’s science and engineering doctorates; by 2010, our share is projected to fall to about 15 percent (Richard Freeman, National Bureau of Economic Research).
* U.S. students rank 24th out of 29 developed nations in mathematics problem-solving (20program’smme for International Student Assessment test [PISA]).
* The U.S. has fallen to ninth in the developed world in high school graduation rates among young adults (OECD).


Yet, we are willing to throw away deserving talent that can help this country sustain itself among global competitors in the future simply because they are the unwitting victims of their parents’ search for a better life.

It doesn’t make sense.

If thought was really given to “making” these students pay for being in the country illegally then let them get their degrees and contract them to work for a certain number of years to “work off” their presumed educational debt. (Nobody has said that they get free tuition. The vast majority of these kids work a job to pay their tuition now.)

It would seem that having students in school, learning either a trade or academics, and then giving back to the country, is much more preferable than forcing them to go stand around on street corners and getting into trouble because they’re bored and can’t legally work.

Some work has already begun in Washington to give these students a chance. It’s called the Dream Act but it’s fate is in as much limbo as the immigration reform bill.

As debate increases on crafting a Congressional immigration reform bill, those who disagree with Congress will try to implement more of these knee-jerk responses, and in all their delusions, they will think they are winning the war on illegal immigration.

When in reality, they’re the ones lacking the education to analyze the problem at hand, and create a solution that will carry the country forward rather than backward.

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