Protesting tuition injustice

Nov. 14, 2013 @ 05:58 PM

A young man or woman fresh out of a Durham County high school and seeking to further his or her education at Durham Technical Community College would pay $1,144 to take a full-time, 16-credit hour course load.

That’s a pretty good deal.

Unless that young man or woman happened to have parents who are in this country as undocumented immigrants.

Then the bill is going to be a much stiffer $4,216. 

Over two years, that amounts to a difference in cost of more than $12,000. That is a pretty daunting price tag that undoubtedly keeps many, perhaps most, children of undocumenteds from pursuing a college education.

At a time when the economy offers few chances to make a living wage without at least some training and education beyond a high school diploma, that is a dismal deal. It is also, it seems evident, a bad deal for our state  - where, it should be noted, the tuition is set, not at Durham Tech.

Those young men and women – eager for a chance to improve their chances in a country that many of them have called home for the two decades since their birth – are going to be saddled with yet another barrier to success. Actually, forget it being a barrier to success – they are being presented with yet another near-guarantee of failure.

We suspect the cost to the state – in social services, lost tax revenue, and in the worst case criminal justice engagement – will be far more than that $12,000 we could have collected.

It is another example of our practically unsound and morally bankrupt immigration policies, or more properly lack thereof.

Even if you are opposed to a path to citizenship for adult immigrants – a policy we find sensible and humane, but understand others worry will reward lawbreaking – the children of those immigrants often have done nothing more than move with the parents that are raising them. (Let’s skip over for the moment that that often is because of heroic efforts to keep families intact in the face of economic challenges in the country they are fleeing, something presumably we all would applaud.)

Keny Murillo, one of a number of undocumented students who have launched a petition drive to push for a change in the law, says that hoping futilely for such a change before now has been  “heartbreaking and stressful.” He dreams of becoming a doctor, but facing the tuition issue means, he said, “my dream was all of a sudden blurry.”

And Marta Sanchez, a research scientist at the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy, told The Herald-Sun’s April Dudash “we cannot afford to waste anybody’s brain….the role of the Dreamer activists (is) to keep challenging us and waking us up to that reality, making us understand the urgency with which we must act.”

It is an urgency of which our lawmakers indeed should be reminded.