Support Let's Learn: Access to Higher Education for Undocumented Students in NC

S.W.E.R (Student Working for Equal Rights) supporter, Cynthia Vizcardo, 23, right, speaks with undocumented brothers, Francis
S.W.E.R (Student Working for Equal Rights) supporter, Cynthia Vizcardo, 23, right, speaks with undocumented brothers, Francis, left, and Jorge Tume, both students at Miami Dade College and illegal immigrants from Peru wanting to apply for deferred action, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, in Miami. Hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants scrambled to get papers in order Wednesday as the U.S. started accepting applications to allow them to avoid deportation and get a work permit but not a path to citizenship. (AP Photo/The Miami Herald, Emily Michot) MAGS OUT

Undocumented students, like all other students who go though the education system in North Carolina, are told to do well in school and go to college in order to reach their full potential.

However, there are many challenges in their path to higher education.

The biggest obstacle is not getting admitted; instead, it is being charged out-of-state tuition when applying to public institutions, even if they have lived in North Carolina most of their lives.

How many of you can afford to pay more than $26,000 in tuition per year, even those whose families have been here for generations?

The undocumented students I know are motivated and want to better themselves and their communities, so why should they struggle because of immigration status -- because they weren't lucky enough to be born in the U.S.?

From an economic standpoint, hindering deserving students from attending our public universities because of the financial burden put on them by giving them out-of-state student status is not a smart return on the state's investment in their pre-college education.

The state educates undocumented students because it is required by the Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe to give them educational resources, so why let that investment go to waste?

That is why the Adelante Education Coalition -- composed of immigrant rights groups in North Carolina -- is launching the Let's Learn NC campaign this week, which advocates for undocumented students who have gone through North Carolina's education system to be able to pay the same rate that their in-state classmates pay.

There are currently 14 states with in-state tuition policies that enable undocumented students to further their education.

Such a bill in the N.C. legislature for in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants would enable students to attend college and be more productive members of their communities.

One of the arguments against allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition is that it rewards them, even though "they don't pay taxes." However, undocumented people do give back to the state through paying sales taxes.

We should enable deserving undocumented students to afford public higher education because it makes our state better equipped to take on the challenges of our time.

This article appeared in the Daily Tar Heel at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Wednesday, February 6th 2013.