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Commentary: Higher education changes will leave Ohio residents footing the bill

UNC-Chapel Hill students march outside Reynolds Coliseum at N.C. State with a coalition of student organizations voicing their support for the Dream Act and asking President Barack Obama to stop deportations, Sept. 14, 2011 in Raleigh, N.C.

UNC-Chapel Hill students march outside Reynolds Coliseum at N.C. State with a coalition of student organizations voicing their support for the Dream Act and asking President Barack Obama to stop deportations, Sept. 14, 2011 in Raleigh, N.C. Courtesy: MCT

An individual living in the U.S. without legal permission will soon have the ability to attend Ohio’s public colleges for an in-state tuition price, according to a recent Ohio Board of Regents decision.

John Carey, Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents announced late July the Board will move to supply higher education at a much reduced cost of in-state tuition as opposed to international or out-of-state tuition. The decision came from consulting with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Those who would qualify are enrolled in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which was put into place by the Obama administration in June 2012. The program includes children who came to the United States before turning 16, and grants them a two year legal status which can be renewed.

“These individuals would be eligible for in-state tuition if all other all residency conditions under Ohio law are met,” Carey said in a public letter to DREAM Activist Ohio, an advocacy group pushing for the lower tuition rate.

However, schools will make the final determination if the students meet the residency requirements, according to the Acting Communications Director for the Board of Regents, Jeff Robinson.

“Each student will have to go to the university and renew their residency status,” he said.

Not all Ohio lawmakers agree on the Board of Regents decision, however. Representative Matt Lynch (R-Bainbridge Township) is sponsoring a house bill (H.B. No. 254) that would “prohibit state institutions of higher education from providing in-state residency status to undocumented aliens,” according to the bill language.

“The recent decision by the Board of Regents will cost Ohio taxpayers tens of millions of dollars,” Lynch said in a statement released and provided in an email to The Lantern.

There are currently approximately 600,000 higher education students enrolled in the Ohio University System, according to the Board of Regents. Only about 2,900 youths have been accepted as part of the DACA in Ohio as of June, and about 553,000 nationally. Not all of the 2,900 are college aged, but it still presents a potentially overwhelming cost.

The average in-state tuition for a four year college in Ohio in 2012-2013 is about $9,200. However, international or out-of-state costs are significantly higher.

At Ohio State the approximate cost for in-state tuition is $10,010, not including room and board or other fees. For international students, which these students would most likely fall under, is $26,726, and with room and board along with other costs, is estimated by OSU to be more than $40,000. For tuition only, this saves these students who were living in the U.S. without legal permission about $16,700, with puts the financial strain on Ohio taxpayers supporting public universities as well as other students.

Ryan Dechellis, an out-of-state second-year in honors economics and financial mathematics said he is “infuriated.”

“The state allowing an illegal immigrant into a public university is frustrating enough to begin with,” he said. “On top of that, allowing them to qualify for in-state tuition when they are not technically an Ohio citizen, blows my mind.”

However, not all OSU students are opposed to the idea.

Fourth-year in communication and out-of-state student Ethan Finkelstein, said that since “most illegal immigrants are not as financially secure as the average American citizen, it provides a more practical opportunity for potentially underprivileged citizens to receive higher education.”

In addition, while only 2,900 students have been accepted in DACA, this could quickly change as there are an estimated 300,000 unauthorized immigrants in Ohio as of 2010, up from 212,000 in 2000, according to the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project launched in February 2011.

Trends are similar nationally, with an estimated 11.2 million as of 2010, up from 8.4 million in 2000.

With 14 public universities with 24 regional branch campuses, 23 community colleges, and 120 adult workforce education and training centers in the Ohio University System, who will be left to pick up the tab?

Dave Dziak is an employee of the Ohio House of Representatives Republican Caucus. 

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