An Undeserved Hand-Out

June 3, 2011

High school seniors will soon be throwing their hats in the air to celebrate their graduation and many will then begin preparing for college. This fall, however, a portion of these students who are set to attend a state college will be seeing a change in their tuition payment.

In May, the legislature passed a bill that will allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at Connecticut’s public colleges and universities. In order to qualify for the in-state tuition rate, illegal immigrants must attend a Connecticut high school for four years, graduate, and then sign documents – an affidavit – promising to seek proper legal status.

Currently, 12 other states have enacted legislation granting illegal immigrant students, meeting specific requirements, in-state tuition rates at public institutions, with a number of other legislatures debating the same issue. Conversely, Arizona, Colorado and Georgia actually ban undocumented students from receiving in-state tuition rates, and many more are considering doing the same. The state of South Carolina also passed a law, titled the “Illegal Immigration Reform Act,” which actively prohibits undocumented students from even enrolling in state colleges or universities – let alone receive rate reductions.

Estimates state that nearly 200 undocumented students will take advantage of the new in-state tuition law. While that may seem like a reasonably small number compared to the state’s 120,000 plus student body, other states with this law have seen huge increases in the population of illegal immigrant applications after adopting similar legislation. A study conducted by an institute at Roger Williams University found that the addition of in-state tuition can result in a 31% increase in non-citizen enrollment of postsecondary education facilities.

Indeed this is a compassionate law attempting to give certain people a leg up, but it is still a law that rewards people for breaking the rules – for breaking federal law. Our country is built on immigration and for those people and citizens who make our country and our state home, the right way. For those – students, persons and families – unsure about seeking legal permanent resident status or citizenship in the United States, visit the US Citizenship and Immigration Services at for information about how to apply.

Since the bill’s passage, Connecticut’s legal state residents have expressed their lack of trust for state government. People feel that this measure allows for their hard-earned tax dollars to be allocated to those who pay no taxes to live in Connecticut or the United States. Folks want assurance from our state government that their children and families will not have to fight for spots at state schools. They would also like assurances that their educational system, which is heavily funded through their tax dollars, is both structured fairly and affordable for future generations of Connecticut residents and citizens.

Here in the State Senate we debated this issue for more than eight hours. Advocates argued that this new law will come at no cost to the state, but in the midst of a budget crisis Connecticut cannot afford that risk. The undocumented students currently enrolled in state colleges or the University of Connecticut will see their tuition payments lowered one-third this fall with the implementation of the law.

It is important to note that there are thousands of immigrants across the state who have worked tirelessly to become legal residents. But by passing this in-state tuition rate for illegal immigrants, the state is sending out the wrong message. The state of Connecticut is now rewarding illegal behavior.

It is not my hope to punish any child or person seeking higher education, but I cannot punish our state’s citizens and taxpayers who support Connecticut’s great educational system and economy. My hope is, however, that people and families immigrating to Connecticut will seek out a legal residency and then attend our schools and become a part of our society.