Judicial Watch • Rise In Tuition Breaks For Illegal Immigrants

Rise In Tuition Breaks For Illegal Immigrants

Rise In Tuition Breaks For Illegal Immigrants

MARCH 17, 2010

Amid a budget crisis that’s negatively impacted public education across the country, the number of illegal immigrants benefitting from discounted tuition at colleges and universities in Texas continues rising, costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in the last few years.

With the blessing of Republican Governor Rick Perry, The Lone Star State offers illegal aliens who graduate from Texas high schools heavily discounted tuition at any of the state’s public universities or two-year community colleges. The costly perk is supposed to be reserved for U.S. citizens or legal residents who live in the state. 

Instead, thousands of illegal aliens annually receive the benefit as well as other taxpayer-funded financial aid and the exorbitant tab keeps growing. Texas has awarded nearly $34 million in state and institutional financial aid to illegal immigrants in the last four years alone, according to a Dallas newspaper report that quotes figures from the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Texas education officials continue the practice even though the Attorney General ruled last year that giving illegal immigrants discounted public college tuition is not legal. In an opinion published last June, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott stated that allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates breaks federal law.

Ironically, the undocumented students who obtain a U.S.-subsidized college degree can’t work in the country because of their immigration status. This hasn’t stopped a handful of states from investing in their publicly-financed educations, however. Led by Texas in 2001, nine other states have laws granting illegal aliens discounted tuition at public institutions of higher education. 

Among them are California, Utah, Kansas, Washington, New York and Maryland. The practice has been legally challenged in several states, including Texas and California. Filed in December, the Texas lawsuit asserts that illegal immigrants are not eligible for federal aid such as Pell Grants. 

In California a group of out-of-state American students argued that the Golden State’s public college system violates the law by charging them higher tuition and fees than undocumented immigrants. A California appellate court ruled in favor of the American students and the case is pending before the sate Supreme Court.

At least three states—Georgia, Oklahoma and Arizona—have solved the contentious issue by creating policies banning discounted tuition for illegal aliens at public schools. 

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