In-State Tuition for Immigrant Children Is A Win-Win

Posted on March 15, 2011


Maryland Statehouse in Annapolis. Wikimedia Commons Photo

The Maryland State Senate has passed a bill allowing children of “illegal immigrants” to pay the in-state tuition rate at Maryland community colleges.

It’s reported that this might burden Maryland taxpayers, eventually. The concern is unnecessary, because it’s based on a  misunderstanding of the so-called costs. Just my opinion.

First, seems to me a bit old-fashioned to stigmatize children for something illegal done by their parents. It’s like society used to ostracize children born out-of-wedlock. We realize now that’s not fair to the child, or the mother.

Now for the cost-benefit analysis:

Under the proposal, undocumented students would not pay a higher, out-of-state tuition, but they would pay something. They’d pay a lower price, the in-state tuition. It would be equivalent to a store having a sale. The store benefits by selling more products to more customers, even at a lower price.

The state is not losing anything, because the higher tuition rate is money the state never had. So it’s not a cost or a loss to taxpayers.

Education is, for want of another word, fungible. (Accountants, please help me out.) There’s no “cost of goods sold” at college, as there is in a store.  The community colleges are already there, the teachers are already hired, the buildings are built. I doubt that adding a few undocumented students to the system would require expansion of the system in any way. Even statewide, the number of additional students would be insignificant. Spread out over community colleges in every county and Baltimore city, the number of additional students at each college is small.

Any added cost?

How much does it COST to add one or two students to a class? In most cases, it costs NOTHING. However, on the income side of the ledger, you get an additional paying customer at the in-state rate. The cost of the college infrastructure would be spread over a larger number of paying customers, actually REDUCING the cost per student. The only physical product involved is textbooks, and college students buy their own textbooks.

The state would receive more revenue from more paying customers, at little or no extra cost. In a business that would equal more profit. Republicans often say they want to run government like a business. Here’s their opportunity to walk the walk. Run the community college like you would run a store.


Clear benefits

We’ve only been talking about the cost side of the cost-benefit analysis. On the benefit side, it’s becoming clearer every day that the Maryland economy benefits from more highly educated citizens and skilled workers. Your comments or corrections are welcome.

One more thing: Offering in-state tuition to children of immigrants would not prevent a single Maryland citizen from attending community college. Maryland community colleges accept every applicant who meets the minimum requirements, and awards a degree to every student willing to do the work. It’s just like your public high school or elementary school, except at the community colleges, the students have to pay tuition. Win-Win.

— John Hayden