For state colleges and universities, “in-state tuition” is designed for two reasons. First, to benefit those families who live in a state, work in a state, and pay local taxes in that state. Second, retain the best students in that state versus having them move to other states.
In most states, the public colleges and universities received funding from taxes, state fees, and state programs. Sales taxes, property taxes, corporate taxes, tobacco taxes, lottery, state park fees, vehicle fees, and so on. Everyone who lives in a state contributes to these state revenues and, in turn, contributes to state colleges. You buy a shirt, you support the state colleges. You buy a meal at a restaurant, you support the state colleges. You pay rent, the property owner uses that to pay property taxes, you support the state colleges. You buy a lottery ticket, you support the state colleges. In California in fiscal year 2009, 22% of the lottery education allocations went to the University of California System, the California State University System, and Community Colleges. You work hard at my job, your company does well and pays its state taxes, you support the state colleges. In-state tuition reflects those contributions you make to state colleges every day in the state’s economy.
When you send my child to college, her experience must be the best in all areas. The academic caliber must be high, set by the best students the college can attract. You want my child to experience passion for every aspect in life from those students around her. I want the college to be full of students passionate about and talented in:
-all academic fields
-music, performance, and the arts
-sports, politics, and community service
You want the college to be full of students from all backgrounds and all places. A lot of learning happens in the classroom, the laboratory, the library, and the study group. But a lot more learning happens in the coffee shop, after the campus event, during the late-night conversations. The more diverse and talented the student population, the better that learning is for my child. One way to keep these talented and passionate students in state for college is to have competitive prices via in-state tuition.
The two reasons for in-state tuition that are outline above do not rely on immigration status of the family. In particular, having a diverse college student population that includes all immigration status adds to the experiences of every student. These are the students who will graduate, obtain local jobs in private and public sector, and make informed decisions that impact immigration policy.
One problem with the greater discussion of multi-faceted immigration issue is that it often portrayed as “us and them”. College has always been a critical place in American society for breaking down societal separations. Two generations ago, women were considered less capable in society. But when women were in college next to men, excelling side by side, attitudes started to change. One generation ago, Latinos and Blacks were considered less capable in society. But when Latinos and Blacks were in college next to other ethnicities, excelling side by side, attitudes started to change. The current generation may see undocumented families as the “others,” sneaking across boarders, living in isolated neighborhoods, and doing the dirty jobs in America. But when the children of undocumented immigrants are in college next to other students, excelling side by side, attitudes will change. In-state tuition is just one part of the steps for America to change its attitudes towards undocumented immigrants.