Florida DREAMing: $472 Million For Illegals at College
Around the State
The Washington, D.C.-based research organization that advocates for strict immigration enforcement and border control pegs DREAM's national price tag at $6.2 billion annually.
Another report, as yet unconfirmed, claimed Wednesday that an unreleased Congressional Budget Office analysis estimates the cost at four times the CIS figure.
The DREAM Act -- currently being considered by the lame-duck, Democrat-controlled Congress -- would grant permanent legal status to illegal immigrants up to age 35, who arrived in the United States before age 16, provided they complete two years of college.
Under the act, these illegal migrants would receive in-state tuition on their so-called path to citizenship.
At Florida universities, there's a $20,140 per-student difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition rates. Granting in-state discounts to illegal immigrants would have to be made up by increased taxpayer subsidies to universities, officials say.
The in-state/out-of-state tuition differential at Florida's community colleges is considerably smaller: $3,508.
Overall, taxpayer tuition subsidies currently run $6,834 per student in Florida, which is estimated to have the third largest share of illegal immigrants in the nation.
CIS policy analyst Steve Camarota estimates that 69,000 illegals in Florida would qualify immediately for in-state tuition under the DREAM Act.
"Conservatively assuming that 80 percent of those go to community college, that adds up to $472 million a year," Camarota told Sunshine State News.
"That's pretty tough when these colleges are already bursting at the seams," he said.
"Given the low income of illegal immigrants, most can be expected to attend this country's state schools, with a cost to taxpayers in the billions of dollars. As both funds and slots are limited at state universities and community colleges, the act may reduce the educational opportunities available to U.S. citizens," the CIS report stated.
Pushed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., the DREAM Act does not contain funding to offset the added state expenses, making it, in effect, an unfunded mandate.
While Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., supports DREAM, Sen. George LeMieux, R-Fla., and his replacement, incoming Sen. Marco Rubio, oppose it.
Rubio has said that amnesty-style programs such as DREAM "make having a legal immigration system that works harder to accomplish."
Urging Floridians to contact their senators, Punta Gorda tea party activist Robin Stublen said, "With approximately 1 million illegal aliens in the state of Florida the cost to taxpayers will be enormous."
Opponents also criticize the proposal for equating college attendance with military service. The act would alternatively grant citizenship to qualified individuals who serve two years in the U.S. military.
"Supporters of the DREAM Act have emphasized the often-compelling stories of illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children. But there has been almost no discussion of the likely impact the act would have on public institutions of higher learning and the American citizens and legal immigrants who wish to attend these same institutions," the CIS study stated.
According to the CIS report:
- Assuming no fraud, 1.03 million illegal immigrants will eventually enroll in public institutions (state universities or community colleges) as a result of the DREAM Act. (Other analyses have put the number as high as 2 million; there are an estimated 12 million illegal aliens in the country.)
- On average, each illegal immigrant who attends a public institution will receive a tuition subsidy from taxpayers of nearly $6,000 for each year he or she attends, for a total cost of $6.2 billion a year -- not including other forms of financial assistance that they may also receive.
- The DREAM Act does not provide funding to cover the costs it imposes. Since enrollment and funding are limited at public institutions, the act’s passage will require some combination of tuition increases, tax increases to expand enrollment or a reduction in spaces available for American citizens at these schools.
Already complaining of funding shortfalls, Florida's universities raised tuition fees 15 percent this fall and now require Bright Futures scholars to shoulder a share of their costs, as well.
Advocates of the DREAM Act -- officially the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act -- argue that it will significantly increase tax revenue because, with a college education, recipients will earn more and pay more in taxes over their lifetime.
But the CIS study pointed to several countervailing factors:
- Any hoped-for tax benefit is in the long-term, and will not help public institutions deal with the large influx of new students the act creates in the short-term.
- Given limited spaces at public institutions, there will almost certainly be some crowding out of U.S. citizens -- reducing their lifetime earnings and tax payments.
- The DREAM Act requires only two years of college, no degree is necessary. The income gains for having some college, but no degree, are modest.
- Because college dropout rates are high, many illegal immigrants who enroll at public institutions will not complete the two years the act requires, so taxpayers will bear the expense without a long-term benefit.
"If Congress is going to pass this, shouldn't they provide the necessary funding?" asked Camarota, who then provided the obvious answer:
"Of course, if they did that, the DREAM Act wouldn't have a chance of passing."
The CIS report employed data developed by the Migration Policy Institute, based on the 2006-2008 Current Population Survey collected by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Contact Kenric Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 801-5341.