We urge members of the General Assembly to vote in favor of providing in-state college tuition rates for qualified children of documented and undocumented immigrants. Note that media attention surrounding this issue has not touched on the fact that legal, documented immigrants are not, at present, afforded in-state tuition rates, regardless of the length of time they have lived in Maryland.
It is no surprise that a firestorm arises out of the possibility that children of undocumented workers may be afforded in-state tuition. This is because few issues are more emotionally charged — and possibly mischaracterized — than the issue of illegal immigration.
The reality we must face is that these students are here. Many have known no other home. Encouraging and facilitating attainment of a college degree for all qualified students, including the children of documented or undocumented immigrants, is a sound economic and social decision.
To be clear, children of documented and undocumented workers will not be receiving a free ride. Under the proposed legislation, Senate Bill 167, eligible children attending a public college or university in Maryland will spend, on average, $35,000 for a four-year degree. That is roughly a savings of $10,000 per year.
Moreover, the bill restricts eligibility for in-state tuition to children of Maryland taxpayers. Thus, the argument that these students are living off the largesse of citizen taxpayers goes away. Indeed, it could be argued that these families are subsidizing in-state tuition for others.
In addition, we know that over the course of a lifetime, college-educated workers pay more in taxes than the lesser-educated — and it is likely to be a lot more than the $40,000 Maryland is investing. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the premium for a bachelor’s degree (over a high school degree) at about $600,000, or 75 percent more in lifetime earnings. Moreover, college-educated workers are less likely to go on the public dole and more likely to be able to pay for health care or acquire it through their employers. So are their children.
Maryland benefits from a well-educated citizenry. Lawmakers should support providing in-state college tuition rates for qualified children of documented and undocumented immigrants.
Editorial Advisory Board members John S. Bainbridge Jr., Arthur Fergenson, Frederic Smalkin and Christopher West did not participate in this opinion.