NC community colleges to enroll illegal immigrants

Reported by Gavin Johnson - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

RALEIGH, NC (WECT/AP) - The State Board of Community Colleges voted Friday to allow illegal immigrants to enroll at North Carolina campuses starting next year.

The plan allows undocumented immigrants to attend community colleges statewide if they graduated from a U.S. high school and pay out-of-state tuition.

Leonor Bautista has been living in the United States for five years and is a legal citizen who is a student at Cape Fear Community College.  She said the future is now bright, even for those who are here illegally.

"With education you can have a good job, and you can raise our next generation in better conditions that you couldn't have in your country," said Bautista.

The policy committee's chairman, Stuart Fountain, says the children of parents who came into the country illegally shouldn't be punished for the federal government's failure to deal with their legal status.

But not everyone keen on the idea. Many college students are sitting on the fence when it comes to this sensitive issue.

"I think they need an education, just as well as we do, but I believe they need to go through and get citizenship before they're able to go to college," said CFCC student Valerie Moore.

"If they go through the process getting naturalization and citizenship by all means lets do it, but no," said CFCC student Andrew Leonard.

Illegals can win admission to the campuses after April 1, 2010, but will not be able to qualify for state or federal financial aid.

The following is information provided by Cape Fear Community College that outlines information on undocumented immigrant admissions at N.C. community colleges.

Main Points

Based on the outcome of the August working session and regular committee meeting, the Policy Committee of the State Board of Community Colleges will discuss and vote on an admissions policy recommendation (link to POL 8, policy attachment) that would admit undocumented immigrants with three requirements:

  • Must be a graduate of a US high school
  • Must pay out-of-state tuition, meaning no cost to NC taxpayers
  • May not displace a North Carolina or US resident

Background on admission numbers:

  • Out-of-state tuition is about five times more than in-state tuition. Based on a 32-hour academic year, out-of-state tuition is $7,700 and in-state is $1,600.
  • According to the JBL report  (pages 25-31) based on 2008 tuition rates, the differential between the actual cost of a student to the State of North Carolina and the cost of out-of-state tuition paid by a student is about $1,650, meaning that the state actually makes a small amount of money on an out-of-state student. According to the JBL study, this takes into consideration the amount allocated to each college through both state appropriations and local funds. This analysis does not include fixed costs such as land and buildings but does include the operational costs for the colleges, an approach that is consistently used by the General Assembly and other organizations when estimating the cost of any educational students to the state.
  • It should be noted that  the admission of undocumented immigrants who  are paying the higher out-of-state rate could not be consider a revenue generator for North Carolina as these students account for only 111 out of 220,000 full-time equivalent students.

Next steps:

  • If the Policy Committee votes favorably on the admissions policy, the policy recommendation will be on the State Board's agenda on Friday morning as a "For Action" item, meaning that it will be brought to the Board for discussion. It may be voted on; however, that cannot be assured at this point.
  • If approved by the State Board, the policy would then begin going through the process of administrative rules (link to permanent rule process) before it could be enacted by the state's 58 community colleges. That process usually takes 6-12 months.   ( - link to Office of Administrative Hearings, Administrative Rules page)
  • In the interim, the current admissions standard of not admitting undocumented immigrants remains in place.

Background Information:

  • The Policy Committee has been working toward developing a policy on admission since the Board voted to hire a consultant to provide information on the topic in August 2008. Prior to that time, the decision to admit or bar undocumented students was made by the administration of the NC Community Colleges based on legal interpretations. Four changes in admissions occurred during an eight-year period.
  • The committee and the full Board received the consultant study from JBL Associates in April 2009, and the Policy Committee held a working session on policy development in June 2009. That meeting resulted in the committee asking the staff of the NC Community College System Office to bring forth policy options for discussion that would be create a consistent policy among North Carolina's higher education institutions and that contained many of the aspects of Senate Bill 848 introduced last session by Senator Charlie Albertson.

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