Tuition, Out of State and Beyond

marco . cuito61 at
Thu Feb 21 10:27:45 MST 2002

New York Times

February 18, 2002

Tuition, Out of State and Beyond

JUST about everyone involved says it was a shame for Washington to do it in 
the first place, and for New York not to have undone it by now. In the 
meantime, Daniel from Mexico and Teresa from Colombia and a few thousand 
other striving immigrants are confronting a formidable new hurdle in their 
pursuit of a college education. And immigrant-friendly New York looks 
punitive at best.

What happened?

Illegal immigrants at the City University of New York were notified just 
three months ago that starting this semester, they would have to pay higher 
tuition — the rates charged to out-of-state students. Their costs at the 
four-year colleges shot up to $3,400 a semester from $1,600. Tuition at the 
community colleges went to $1,538 a semester from $1,250.

CUNY administrators say that when they were reviewing their policies after 
Sept. 11, they discovered that since 1998, CUNY had been violating a federal 
immigration law that prevents students who are illegal immigrants from 
getting benefits unavailable to citizens from out of state.

California and Texas passed legislation that circumvents the federal 
statute. In New York, the state university has been following the federal 
policy since 1998, and CUNY, which estimates that about 3,000 of its 200,000 
students have acknowledged their illegal status on their applications, 

It had to, said the current general counsel, Frederick P. Schaffer. "People 
speculate this is part of an anti-immigrant policy, but it's just law," he 
said. "I concluded that not only as a lawyer but as a lawyer for a public 
institution, I had an obligation to obey the law."

He and CUNY's chancellor, Matthew Goldstein, say they deplore having to 
raise fees and urge Albany to enact legislation that would get around the 
federal law. But critics have complained that they did not delay the 
effective date of the increases, did not deliberate in public, did not 
aggressively draw attention to the plight of their students, did not beg for 

"They acted hastily and unilaterally," said Barbara Bowen, president of the 
Professional Staff Congress, which represents CUNY's faculty. Ms. Bowen 
cited CUNY's traditional mission of educating immigrants, many of them poor, 
and said that university administrators should have consulted with a broad 
range of experts, faculty members and students before increasing tuition.

Dr. Goldstein, emphasizing that CUNY is trying to help the illegal 
immigrants in a number of ways, said: "The action I took had to be taken. If 
my general counsel alerted me that we are out of compliance with federal 
law, I have to get into compliance, which we did rather decisively."

That they did. Daniel, a Hunter College student who emigrated from Mexico 
with his family when he was 15, remembers being stunned by a letter advising 
him of the tuition increases just before Thanksgiving.

"I think because of Sept. 11, they want to keep track of everybody, because 
one of the terrorists had a student visa," said Daniel, 22. "That's all 
right with me. But not everybody is as bad." Daniel, once a full-time 
student, is now taking one $900 course in computer technology.

ANOTHER Hunter student, Teresa, fears she will have to drop out. Teresa, a 
20-year-old honors student, came from Colombia with her family when she was 
14. She and Daniel have little chance of becoming citizens unless they marry 
Americans or have relatives who are citizens. Teresa is hoping that the 
courts or the State Legislature will reverse the tuition increases.

The federal law prevents illegal immigrants from getting preferential 
treatment (lower tuition) that citizens in other states cannot. California 
and Texas got around that by making high school graduation the key criterion 
for the lower tuition, along with school attendance or residency in those 

Bills with similar provisions have been introduced in Albany by Assemblymen 
Adriano Espaillat of Manhattan and Peter M. Rivera of the Bronx, both 
Democrats. But the bills have drawn little attention and have no sponsor in 
the State Senate. Gov. George E. Pataki is still studying the matter, his 
advisers say, and the legislative leaders — Sheldon Silver in the Assembly, 
a Democrat, and Joseph L. Bruno in the Senate, a Republican — have not yet 
taken positions.

This is New York, city of immigrants. The power players will surely awaken 
to this soon. Then again, the Legislature and governor are seeking 
re-election this year. There are other priorities. And illegal immigrants do 
not vote.

We declare our right on this earth ... to be a human being, to be respected 
as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, 
on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any 
means necessary. -Malcolm X

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