Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

September 3, 2013

MARK HEINIG: Affordable college lets undocumented contribute, not just consume

State should repeal law denying them in-state tuition.

The Kokomo Tribune’s editorial Aug. 7 examined a problem that probably won’t disappear. In 2011, we passed a law requiring students at state-supported colleges verify citizenship or legal residence to qualify for in-state tuition. I agree with the Tribune: Indiana should repeal this law.

The law’s supporters think permitting the undocumented residing in Indiana to pay instate tuition is unfair to Hoosier taxpayers. Whether unfair or not, repealing the law wouldn’t help taxpayers or state universities. Because undocumented students can’t get federal financial aid, paying out-of-state tuition is impossible for many of them.

What purpose does this law serve? According to the Tribune, out-of state tuition at IU Kokomo is 2.8 times higher than in-state tuition. Undocumented students who can’t afford to pay that much drop out or don’t enroll and pay nothing at all. That decreases the income of the university and, indirectly, the income of the state of Indiana. A full-time IUK student’s course load is 15 credit hours per semester. At $198 per credit hour, the total tuition would be about $2,970 per semester.

When I became a principal and began preparing my first school budget, I quickly realized I could enroll more students without increasing the school’s expenses. A school’s greatest expense is salaries, primarily teachers’ salaries. They consume 70 to 80 percent of the school’s annual revenue. According to the Indiana State Teachers Association, the average salary of an Indiana public school teacher is $50,407 per year or $25,203.50 per semester.

A teacher who earns that amount for teaching five classes of fifteen students seldom earns more by teaching larger classes. The extra students increase the school’s income more than its expenses. The same principle should apply to state-supported colleges. If undocumented students can afford in-state tuition, they don’t drop out. The taxpayers get an additional $198 per credit hour instead of nothing at all. What’s unfair about that?

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