January 20, 2015
Don’t Turn Back the Clock on College Access
Virginia’s state senators are voting today on whether to deny certain Virginia immigrants in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. That would be the wrong move for lots of reasons. We should be encouraging all young Virginians to get the education they need to reach their fullest potential, rather than singling out some lawfully present Virginians for exclusion.
Students at Virginia colleges with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival status—the group who lawmakers are targeting—are a drop in the enrollment bucket at Virginia’s four-year public colleges. But as our recent issue brief shows, increasing college attendance has big payoffs for both students and the broader economy.
The expected lifetime earnings of Virginians with bachelor’s degrees are nearly twice those of Virginians with only a high school education, and even attending some college but not completing a degree raises expected lifetime earnings by hundreds of thousands of dollars. We should be doing everything we can to increase college attendance and completion by Virginians, not throwing up obstacles in the path of certain students. Forcing immigrants who are here lawfully to pay higher out-of-state tuition rates would be counterproductive, making college unaffordable for many.
More broadly, Virginia is home to some of the most well-educated and most economically successful immigrants in the country, but addressing the challenges facing some immigrants can help ensure that all Virginians are able to contribute to their fullest potential. Our new comprehensive report on how immigrants are faring in Virginia’s economy delves into some of their successes, as well as the challenges they face. For example, about 40 percent of the state’s immigrants over age 25 have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, the fourth-highest rate among the states. Yet, immigrant Virginians are less likely than their native-born peers to have health insurance.
Virginia has a lot of things going for it, which has made it a destination of choice over the last decade for well-educated, highly successful workers, whether they’re coming from across the country or across the world. With an increasingly diverse, international workforce, now more than ever we need to make sure Virginia’s public policies help build a commonwealth that works for all its residents, no matter where they’re born.
–Laura Goren, Senior Policy Analyst