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January 22, 2013

Among legislation being considered during the current General Assembly session are proposals that would extend eligibility for in-state tuition to certain undocumented students.

These proposals should be considered very carefully by legislators for their ability to make a very substantial, long-term investment in our state’s workers and our economy.

There is no disputing the long-term value of a college education.

First, earnings for adults increase with years of education and degree completion. In Virginia, an individual who completes a bachelor’s degree earns almost $55,000/year compared to $30,000/year for someone with a high school diploma or equivalent. The difference is vast. Getting a college degree increases median annual earnings by $25,000.

Second, the state also sees a clear return on investment from a college education since higher-earning individuals would pay more in income, property, and sales taxes. State and local taxes paid by a person with a college degree, earning about $55,000/year, are roughly $4,600/year.

A high school graduate who earns around $30,000 will pay almost $2,500 in taxes. That means the additional earnings of a college degree holder translates into over $2,000 more in state and local tax revenue each year.

The fact is immigrants in Virginia are already contributing to Virginia’s economy in important ways. Virginia’s immigrants are already the most educated immigrants in the nation. While immigrants comprise about 11 percent of Virginia’s population, they represent roughly 17 percent of its entrepreneurs. And immigrants accounted for over 40 percent of the growth in entrepreneurship in the state between 2000 and 2010.

Virginia reaps substantial economic rewards from our prosperous foreign-born population. To help keep Virginia’s economic competitiveness sharp, we should continue to invest in measures that promote the talent and skill development of our immigrants, including opening access to our state colleges and universities to certain categories of unauthorized immigrants.

The Commonwealth Institute

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