WSJ: Texas In-State Tution for Illegals Makes Economic Sense
In last week's Republican debate, Mitt Romney assailed Rick Perry over the Texas Dream Act, which Gov. Perry signed into law in 2001.
ROMNEY: I got to be honest with you. I...don't see how it is that a state like Texas --- to go to the University of Texas, if you're an illegal alien, you get an in-state tuition discount. You know how much that is? It's $22,000 a year. Four years of college, you're -- almost a $100,000 discount, if you're an illegal alien, to go to University of Texas.
If you're a United -- United States citizen from any one of the other 49 states, you have to pay $100,000 more. That doesn't make sense to me. And...that kind of magnet draws people into this country to get that education, to get the $100,000 break. It makes no sense.
We have to have a...fence...And we have to turn off the magnet of extraordinary government benefits like a $100,000 tax credit or -- excuse me -- discount for going to University of Texas.That shouldn't be allowed. It makes no sense at all.
Other candidates, notably Rick Santorum, quickly piled on, and Rick Perry did an atrocious job at defending his actions and explaining his rationale, instead resorting to a lame emotional appeal in which he called his fellow candidates "heartless."
The editors of the Wall Street Journal today pick up where Perry left off, and provide the explanation for the Texas Dream Act that Perry failed to communicate.
...In 2001, Texas passed the nation's first state law that allowed undocumented high school graduates to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. To qualify, students have to attend school in the state for at least three years and file an affidavit saying that they plan to seek permanent residency.
...Lower in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities aren't akin to welfare for the indigent; they're not means-tested. They're a discount for residency. The same logic applies to hunting or fishing licenses.
Immigration status aside, state residents are thought to be deserving of a subsidy because they pay sales taxes, property taxes and other fees to support state institutions that nonstate residents don't pay. Especially in a state like Texas that has no income tax, illegal aliens are more likely to bear a larger share of the tax burden than their counterparts in most other states.
...as of 2008 there were 1.5 million children in the U.S. who are illegal. The Supreme Court has ruled that these children are entitled to a K-12 education. Lawmakers in Texas, which is home to the nation's second-largest illegal population after California, determined that tuition breaks for these residents made economic sense. So did the state's business community, which lobbied for the measure on the grounds that a better educated population would translate into stronger economic growth.
The Journal goes on to argue that modest tuition subsidies for illegal immigrants makes good economic sense for the state in the long run too, because a college graduate's lifetime earnings far exceed those of someone with just a high school diploma. The higher an individual's earnings, presumably the more tax payments that end up in state coffers.