Tuition lowered for some illegal immigrants

Students who qualify will pay in-state rates; lawmaker objects

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    The University of Toledo this fall will begin charging immigrants with temporary legal status in-state tuition, instead of higher out-of-state tuition rates, and will provide scholarships and other financial aid to help them attend school, President Lloyd Jacobs said.

    Dr. Jacobs’ decision was made just after Ohio’s Board of Regents notified the state’s college presidents that illegal immigrants who qualify for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program can qualify for in-state tuition.

    That move was based on Attorney General Mike DeWine determination in late July that immigrant students now may qualify for in-state tuition.

    But state Rep. Matt Lynch (R., Bainbridge Township), whose district includes Aurora and the northern third of Portage County, said on Wednesday that he will introduce legislation in the Ohio House “within the next 10 days” to overturn the decision. Mr. Lynch said he believes he has the support to pass the bill.

    “I think there will be quite a bit of support because of the costs involved,” he said. “Ohio taxpayers should be outraged.”

    Many other Ohio colleges and universities, including Bowling Green State University, Ohio State University, and Owens Community College, have expressed support and plan to charge the immigrant students the lower tuition.

    Most of Ohio’s public two and four-year schools have been charging the students out-of-state or international rates, which can be up to three times what Ohio students pay.

    “My understanding is that this is an advisory opinion; it’s not binding,” Dr. Jacobs said of the announcement. “Some universities will and some will not. We’re all for it. We will formally take childhood arrivals.” 

    Qualified students
    The students who now would qualify for the in-state tuition rates are those whose applications have been approved for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The program, unveiled in 2012, has determined that illegal-immigrant youths who arrived in the United States before they turned 16 could receive two years of legal status that can be renewed. It allows them to work and drive without fear of deportation.

    The comprehensive immigration reform bill approved by the U.S. Senate earlier this summer also would give those students an opportunity to become U.S. citizens. The bill is now held up in the U.S. House where Republicans refuse to allow Congress to vote on it.

    There were 2,079 Ohio youths enrolled in the federal DACA program as of mid-June, according to the latest data available from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Those numbers are not broken down by region or by age. Not all of them would be would be of college age.

    School officials say the number of students who may qualify for the lower tuition is not yet known. Most universities and colleges that have accepted illegal immigrants usually don’t indicate their citizenship status, but they just charge them out-of-state tuition rates.

    Since President Obama announced the deferred-action program on June 15, 2012, 537,662 applications have been approved throughout the country.

    After learning of the attorney general’s ruling, Owens Community College, which has campuses in Perrysburg Township and Findlay, said it will begin offering in-state tuition to qualifying immigrant students this fall, said Jared Meade, the college’s spokesman. In-state tuition for students taking 12 credits at Owens this fall semester would be $1,795.20 and $3,404.40 for out-of-state and international students.

    Bowling Green State University also will charge the qualified students in-state tuition, which, with fees, per semester is $5,295. Nonresidential tuition and fees per semester amount to $8,949.

    BGSU has always accepted any students, regardless of citizenship status, as long as they meet academic requirements, said Dave Kielmeyer, university spokesman.

    “They can enroll regardless of immigration status,” he said.

    Signing up for 12 credits at UT this fall, considered a full academic load, will cost $4,527.12 with fees for in-state students a semester and $9,087.12 per semester for out-of-state and international students.

    Despite the price break, Dr. Jacobs said he doesn’t believe the University of Toledo will notice a large increase in the immigrant-student population. The students in the program don’t qualify for state or federal grants to help pay for college, so most still will not be able to afford it, he said.

    For others, the priority is to obtain a driver’s license and find a job to help support their families. 

    Individual basis
    The University of Toledo for many years has been creative in helping illegal immigrants afford an education by establishing privately funded scholarships. The university will continue to develop and make such opportunities available, Dr. Jacobs said.

    The university’s mission is to do “anything we can do to raise the intellectual capacity” of everyone in the community, Dr. Jacobs said.

    Each case is determined on an individual basis, based on the student’s academic grades, potential, and financial need, he said.

    Five years ago, in one very rare instance, school officials decided to waive tuition for a set of twins who were illegal immigrants. President Jacobs said the decision was made after a request was made on behalf of the students, who had exemplary grades.

    “They both graduated with top honors,” President Jacobs said. “They did very well.”

    Mr. Lynch said charging students in the program lower tuition will cost state taxpayers $150 million per year. He based that figure on the difference between in-state and international student tuition rates at Ohio State University and “an estimate that as many as 10,000 immigrant students may qualify” for the in-state tuition.

    That’s lost revenue for colleges and universities that the taxpayers will have to pay for, he said.

    Providing illegal immigrants with such benefits as drivers licenses and the lower in-state tuition, or in the University of Toledo’s case, waiving tuition or offering them scholarships, is unfair to U.S. taxpayers and encourages more illegal immigrants to come to the state, Mr. Lynch said.

    “We already have an estimated 100,000 illegals in Ohio,” Mr. Lynch said. “The total cost to the state is $800 million per year when you include things like health care and police services. If you add college costs, it will be nearly $1 billion per year.

    “We don’t want to encourage more people to come to Ohio,” he said.

    Steve Salvi, founder of the Ohio Jobs and Justice PAC, said his organization is also concerned that American taxpayers will have to subsidize the lower tuition rates for the deferred-action students.

    He’s also concerned overall with the deferred-action program and said the federal government isn’t screening applicants well enough.

    What’s troubling is that, according to the latest statistics, 99.2 percent of DACA applicants are approved,” Mr. Salvi said. “That is more indicative of rubber-stamping than anything else.”

    DACA applicants don’t go through background checks and there are no verification controls to verify identity, Mr. Salvi said. He believes many of the applicants are using fake IDs and documents.

    Many are still unhappy with how the President decided to implement the DACA program without input from Congress. A similar program was introduced in 2009-10 and was rejected by lawmakers in Washington, Mr. Lynch pointed out.

    Mr. Lynch said he is not “anti-immigrant” when it comes to the issue of immigration. But he said people shouldn’t be rewarded for doing something illegal. His bill won’t bar deferred-action students from attending college but would bar them from in-state tuition.

    “I have tremendous empathy for people who come here to better themselves,” he said. “But the reality is, when you begin to unilaterally drive up tuition for all the other students, for students who came here illegally, it’s an issue of fairness,” he said. “The idea that some of these kids come here innocently I understand. But that’s not the responsibility of Ohio residents. The responsibility should be their parents.”

    In Toledo, the lower in-state tuition rate could help students such as Lucy Mendoza, an illegal immigrant who has lived most of her life in Toledo. An exemplary high school student, she graduated from Toledo’s Early College High School in 2011 and had earned nearly half the college credits needed to obtain a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toledo.

    The university was so impressed that leaders awarded her with a $10,000 President’s Award to continue her studies.

    But at the time, international student tuition was about $16,000, so the money didn’t go far enough, and she had to drop out of school after a semester.

    Since then, she’s been accepted in the deferred-action program, which allows her to work and try to finish paying off her school debt and possibly resume classes again this fall. Ms. Mendoza, whose dream is to become a journalist, was recently hired at the Independent Collegian, the student newspaper, as the arts and life section editor.

    “I believe charging in-state tuition is a step in the right direction,” Ms. Mendoza said. “I hope this becomes a federal mandate, not just a state recommendation, because you have states like Arizona and Alabama who will never do it unless it’s federal.”

    Contact Federico Martinez at: or 419-724-6154.