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Commentary: Save the in-state rate for lawful residents

Maryland must be flush with cash, because many state legislators are eager to give tuition breaks to people who are in this country illegally. According to the fiscal note accompanying the in-state-tuition bill now under consideration, Maryland taxpayers will have to cough up about $3.5 million by fiscal 2016 to cover the costs of giving the children of non-U.S. citizens, here both legally and illegally, the same status as legal Maryland residents when it comes to community college tuition.

Nor will the provision in the new bill requiring that newly eligible students’ parents be Maryland taxpayers make an appreciable difference, because the allocable contribution by each benefiting taxpayer will be but a tiny fraction of the total cost of the new benefit. The Editorial Advisory Board piece appearing in these pages today mistakenly claims to the contrary. U.S. citizens will pay virtually all of the tab for this new benefit.

While we believe that lawful residents of the United States who otherwise meet the qualifications set forth in the legislation warrant in-state treatment, we believe that it is not appropriate to extend that benefit to those persons who are illegally in this country.

First, the less tuition that those who are not lawfully in this country pay, the deeper Maryland taxpayers are going to have to dig to make up the difference between the cost of our public educational institutions and the far lower amount of tuition collected. By making it easier for them to attend Maryland higher education, their use of a greater number of available slots, whatever their number, means that fewer classroom seats will be available to those who are lawfully in this country and state. The beneficiaries of this bill will eat in dining halls and use the athletic facilities, libraries and utilities as would any other student, all subsidized.

In light of this state’s massive budget problems, we are opposed to any additional spending except for an emergency. Giving those here illegally a tuition break does not qualify under any definition as an emergency.

Second, there is no reasonable doubt that further economies will be have to be made in higher education budgets in the future: cuts in budgets and increases in tuition and fees. The increase in costs for providing this new entitlement dictates an increase in cuts and fees and tuition. As a matter of simple mathematics, every time a Maryland student suffers from future educational economies, the suffering will be that much greater because of the extension of the in-state treatment to illegal aliens. Taxpayers will pay, and so will Maryland students.

Let’s welcome immigrants who come here and lawfully join us in the United States as citizens. This country has been built on the imagination and hard work of those who make their home here and become one with those who are blessed to call themselves Americans. Let’s not reward others for breaking our laws and punish our own students in the process.

John S. Bainbridge Jr., Arthur Fergenson and Christopher West are members of The Daily Record’s Editorial Advisory Board. The opinions expressed here are their own and not those of the board.