NC community colleges to enroll illegal immigrants

From Forbes:

By GARY D. ROBERTSON

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s community college system voted Friday to admit illegal immigrants at its campuses next year, a move unlikely to bring an immediate surge in undocumented students given a requirement that they pay higher tuition.

The State Board of Community Colleges approved the rules, which according to proponents will provide clarity after four previous policy changes on the topic since 2000.

A no-admission policy, with some rare exceptions, has been in place since May 2008, but Friday’s vote will open more opportunities for Latino residents to succeed, an advocate said.

“We are thrilled with the decision,” said Marco Zarate, president of the North Carolina Society of Hispanic Professionals. “We believe that education is something that is probably one of the few things that once you have it, nobody can take it away from you.”

The changes are designed to focus on children who entered the country illegally with their parents and didn’t make the decision to come to America, said Stuart Fountain, chairman of the policy committee that recommended the policy change to the full board.

“These children cannot be held in limbo with the federal government decides what to do with immigration,” Fountain said. “While in high school they have adopted American culture and they’ve learned to speak English.”

The rules, which would almost mirror guidelines for University of North Carolina campuses, would allowed illegal immigrants to enroll in any of the system’s 58 campuses if they have graduated from a U.S. high school.

But they also would have to pay the out-of-state tuition rate, which is nearly five times the in-state rate. They also couldn’t qualify for financial aid or take the place of students who are legally in the U.S. on crowded campuses.

With some campus presidents seeing 20 to 30 percent enrollment increases this year as unemployed workers try to retrain for a new career, illegal immigrants would get lower priority for admission.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton cast the only “no” vote against the policy in the voice vote but did not debate publicly the issue before the board. He released a statement saying that “these are extremely difficult economic times that require tough choices.”

“Now is not the time to increase the demands on our already overburdened community college system,” Dalton added.

Gov. Beverly Perdue, another Democrat, was also opposed to the community college enrollment change, telling reporters this week it’s hard to understand why the state should educate people “when they can’t work legally in the state after they’re educated.”

Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, criticized the decision and suggested Perdue could have lobbied more to block the change.

“This action is a slap in the face to legal North Carolina residents that desperately need access to the job training provided by our community colleges during the worst period of unemployment since the Great Depression,” Berger said.

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