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April 18, 2006
Someone's DREAMing

See if we can sort this out together. Our governor, Tim Pawlenty, has threatened to veto any funding for the Minnesota college system that includes DREAM, new legislation that allows the children of illegal immigrants to take advantage of state-resident tuition fees instead of the rate charged to students from outside Minnesota. This is similar to the DREAM Act that Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has attempted to work into the Senate version of immigration reform. The Star Tribune reports on the standoff between the Minnesota legislature and the governor:

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has asked a House committee to reject a proposal that would allow some illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition to state colleges and universities.

An identical measure died last year when Pawlenty threatened to veto funding bills for the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MnSCU) if the provision was included.

And this year, Pawlenty, a Republican, has proposed clamping down on illegal immigrants, a stance the DFL-dominated Senate has resisted.

The DREAM proposal does not apply to all illegals. Students would have to have graduated from a Minnesota high school after attending for at least three years and would have to demonstrate an effort to normalize their status. Proponents cast this as a fairness issue, since these students would be part of the community already and a higher education would make them better able to contribute positively to society and the economy. Detractors point out that illegals would get a better deal than those who graduate from Iowa or Wisconsin high schools, who would have to pay the full tuition rate.

Or do they? The Strib includes a strange assertion from the state agency that runs the state colleges and universities, MnSCU, that makes the entire point of DREAM moot:

MnSCU spokeswoman Melinda Voss said, "Undocumented students are not eligible to pay in-state tuition unless they attend a college that does not charge a different rate for out-of-state students."

Eleven of MnSCU's 32 colleges and universities charge a flat rate for all in-state and outstate students, she said. Generally, MnSCU colleges and universities charge outstate students twice as much in tuition and fees as Minnesota students.

So we already have colleges and universities that don't have multitiered tuition fee structures -- in fact, we have eleven of them, including two higher-level University of Minnesota campuses (Morris and Crookston). The other 21 facilities do have higher fees for out-of-state students, regardless of whether they come from Iowa or Iceland. Nor does the state penalize non-citizens for unlawful presence in the US; non-citizens pay the higher fee at those schools which charge it.

The DREAM legislation then proposes that we solve a problem for which the market has already provided a solution. Illegals wishing to attend a university at the same tuition rates as Minnesota residents can simply apply at UM Morris or UM Crookston, or one of the other nine colleges with single-tier fees. The alternative offered by the Minnesota legislature would create a discount for an illegal immigrant for which a legal immigrant would not be eligible. Does this sound reasonable to anyone?

This is the kind of nonsense that gets proposed when we refuse to actually produce a solution for a larger problem; instead, the government comes up with silly patchwork compromises that wind up discriminating against someone in the interest of "fairness", and usually winds up costing taxpayers even more money. Instead of solving non-existent problems, the Minnesota legislature should concentrate on saving our tax dollars rather than finding new ways to spend them.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 18, 2006 10:12 PM

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