Portland representative Michael Dembrow was down in Salem today testifying in favor of a mini-Dream Act for Oregon, a "tuition equity" bill that would allow kids of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition if they attend three years of high school in Oregon.
The big news of the day? Allowing these kids to pay in-state tuition would make the university system money. According to the university system's fiscal impact report, the bill would make the system $23,490 in the first two years and $943,467 in the next two years.
That's not a lot of cash, but anti-immigration critics often make the argument that immigrants are a drain on America's systems—mooching off healthcare, stealing jobs and the like. The fact that allowing undocumented immigrant kids to attend college like all other Oregonians would actually make the system money upends those arguments.
So why would this make money? Though Oregon immigration rights group CAUSA estimates that about 44,000 people in Oregon are the "paperless" children of undocumented immigrants, the university system's financial estimate is based on assumption that only 15 undocumented students would take advantage of in-state tuition next year, growing to 62 by 2016. I think that seems really low, but the university's numbercrunchers based their estimates on the stats in ten other states that have passed tuition equity bills. Since the system wouldn't have to add any more teachers or classes to accommodate the handful of new students, the bill would bring in new tuition dollars but not cost the system anything.
University spokeswoman Di Saunders says the system's supports the bill both for reasons of equity and pragmatism. "Many of these students have done very well in high school, but they hit a wall when they want to go to university, because the cost of $20-25,000 a year for tuition is a hurdle they just can't cross," says Saunders. "There is a growing number of Latino students in our state and this is our future."