UNC council supports in-state tuition for undocumented students

Dec. 13, 2013 @ 09:01 PM

The UNC Faculty Council voted unanimously Friday in support of a resolution pushing for in-state tuition for undocumented students.

As North Carolina law stands now, an undocumented student attending a North Carolina university or college must pay out-of-state tuition.

The university does not have the authority to grant in-state tuition to undocumented students. However, advocates hope the faculty council’s symbolic gesture adds momentum to their movement, a fight to spur change within the N.C. General Assembly.

The resolution supports reconsideration of the portion of the UNC Board of Governors Policy Manual that requires that “all undocumented aliens must be charged out-of-state tuition, and prohibits them from receiving state or federal financial aid, notwithstanding the fact that they are domiciled in North Carolina.”

UNC Faculty Council Chair Jan Boxill said such discussions are happening across the UNC system, which is comprised of 17 institutions.

“It does give them support in order to move it further,” Boxill said.

UNC public policy junior Emilio Vicente and UNC biology senior Maria Pia Rodriguez high-fived after the resolution passed. They are both undocumented and co-leaders of UNC’s Students United for Immigrant Equality organization.

Chancellor Carol Folt shook their hands after the faculty council adjourned.

Folt said the resolution is consistent with Carolina’s mission to make college accessible and affordable to all, and the council’s vote may help bring the issue in front of state lawmakers.

“I’m not surprised,” Folt said of the resolution’s passage. “It’s really in keeping with who we are.”

Vicente said out of UNC’s student population of about 29,000, they know of about 20 students who are undocumented.

“I’m aware of the political atmosphere at the moment, and I still think its possible,” Vicente said. “I think that at UNC specifically, we always talk about being accessible and being affordable. I don’t think we can meet that mission unless every student who gets into UNC can actually come to UNC.”

In 2013-14, UNC’s tuition and fees for out-of-state undergraduates was $30,122, but the anticipated 12.3-percent increase next year slated by the N.C. General Assembly would make that sticker price $31,674 for base tuition.

Vicente crossed the border at 6 years old with his family, who are originally from Guatemala. Even though he’s lived in the U.S. for 15 years, UNC admissions included him in the international applications pool.

He’s able to attend UNC because he receives a private scholarship.

“Most of us don’t have that money. If we had that kind of money, we probably wouldn’t be undocumented in the first place,” he said. He mentioned that he receives emails from students who are unable to afford college, and that fact frustrates him.

“I always tell them to keep fighting, to not give up, to keep dreaming and hopefully everything will work out,” Vicente added.

He is working with the N.C. Dream Team, an organization of undocumented youth and allies fighting for immigrant rights. In November, the organization launched a petition and phone call blitz directed at N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, the UNC Board of Governors and N.C. Community College System about in-state tuition.

If North Carolina approves a measure for undocumented students, it would join 16 other states that offer in-state tuition: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, and Washington.