Local News

UNC Considering In-State Tuition for Illegal Immigrants

Posted December 7, 2007 8:12 a.m. EST
Updated December 7, 2007 7:39 p.m. EST

— The University of North Carolina system is considering whether to offer undocumented immigrants in-state tuition at its 16 university campuses.

In-state tuition ranges from $1,500 to $3,700 while out-of-state students pay $10,000 to $20,000.

System President Erskine Bowles said that illegal immigrants already are in the state and that creating another permanent underclass is not the right thing to do.

Joni Worthington, vice president for communications for the UNC system, said officials have agreed only to research the issue and have not taken a position for or against it.

A 28-member commission of business, community and academic leaders is studying the idea's costs and benefits.

Undocumented students make up a small percentage of the university system. At UNC-Chapel Hill, for example, there are four. All are on financial aid – none of it state or federal.

Chancellor James Moeser supports their success, saying, "it's in the interest of the state to educate all of the people who live here to their highest potential."

"They are honor students. In some cases, they are valedictorian(s) of our high schools," Moeser said. "Are we going to deprive this intellectual talent?"

Others are speaking out about the concept, saying the issue is not about money, but about setting a precedent.

"I think it would seriously erode their support amongst the taxpayers, the citizens," state House Minority Leader Paul Stamm, R-Wake, said. "We can't educate the entire world."

Stamm said the UNC system received more than a 15 percent increase in its budget last year. Changes like the one being researched could mean wavering support from some legislators, he said.

"It has to do with the responsibilities of North Carolina taxpayers to provide an appropriate education for the citizens of North Carolina," he said.

Last week, a controversy erupted over a new policy that mandates all state community colleges admit students regardless of their immigration status.

Policy opponents include all five candidates for North Carolina governor.