Advocates press for in-state tuition for undocumented NC students
Posted December 24, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — As part of a unique Christmas Eve tradition, Latino advocates rallied Saturday for equal access to higher education in North Carolina for undocumented students.
Under North Carolina law, students who are in the country illegally aren't considered state residents, so they are ineligible for in-state tuition and must pay the higher out-of-state rate. That's true even for students in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which allows them to remain in the U.S. and work and study without fear of deportation.
Members of the Adelante Education Coalition, a group of nonprofits that focuses on education issues affecting Latino and migrant students and their families, and the state NAACP demanded change in the rally.
"They do pay taxes. They do pay federal, state and social security taxes. Therefore, why do they not have the same access and the same rights?" said Anna Blackburn, vice president of the Harnett County NAACP.
Last year, at least two bills were filed in the General Assembly to change the tuition policy for undocumented students, but they never advanced.
Yasmin Aguilar, whose parents came to the U.S. 13 years ago, is now a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"Sometimes, people questioned me, like, 'Oh, like why are you still trying so hard if you might not go to college?' and I didn't really have an answer for them," Aguilar said. "No matter how much I excelled, there would always be an extra hurdle standing in the way before the finish line."
In a statement to WRAL News, North Carolina Community College System President James Williamson said the 58-college system "was founded on, and remains, committed to access and affordability."
Aguilar was the 2016 valedictorian at Union High School and won a full scholarship to UNC-Chapel Hill, so she didn't have to figure out how to finance her education. But she said she considers herself lucky.
"That means that only a handful get to go to college when everybody deserves the opportunity," she said.
Advocates said they fear DACA might end when President-elect Donald Trump takes office next month. Trump campaigned on rescinding President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration.