GOP lawmaker asks whether Montgomery College is breaking law
A Republican state delegate is asking Maryland authorities to investigate whether Montgomery College is breaking the law by allowing illegal immigrants to enroll as county residents and therefore obtain lower in-county fees.
Del. Patrick L. McDonough (R-Baltimore County) called a news conference this morning in Annapolis to air his concerns.
The college has a longtime policy of treating all graduates of Montgomery County public schools as locals. Anyone who graduates from a Montgomery public high school, regardless of immigration status, and enrolls at the community college pays local fees. Those fees are about one third of what an international student would pay. Fees total $321 for a three-credit course for a county resident, compared with $657 for Marylanders from outside the county and $897 for everyone else.
Beth Homan, college spokeswoman, responded to McDonough's allegations with a statement:
"Montgomery College provides in-county tuition to all recent Montgomery County Public School graduates. Students who have not graduated from a MCPS high school in the last three years must prove residency status to receive in-county or in-state tuition rates.
Maryland authorities have discussed the issue of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants extensively in recent years.
In a 2006 opinion, the Maryland attorney general told Prince George's Community College trustees the institution "lacks the authority to extend in-county tuition benefits to undocumented aliens."
In a 2007 advisory letter, the state attorney general opined that "an alien who is not lawfully present in the U.S. is not eligible on the basis of residence for any postsecondary education benefit," according to federal law.
That letter came in response to proposed legislation related to the issue of tuition for illegal immigrants. The letter stated that there are "reasonable arguments" for and against the idea of allowing some illegal immigrants to pay residential tuition and fees, and so "it cannot be said" that legislation allowing it would be "clearly invalid". The legislation failed, however.
McDonough contends that the Montgomery College policy is an act of deliberate defiance by leaders of a liberal suburban county with "an elitist, arrogant attitude." He says he suspects collusion among leaders of the community college, the K-12 public school system and the county government. He says their stance reflects "a cultural attitude that almost makes them feel comfortable being above the law."
McDonough says he believes the college may have as many as 10,000 illegal-immigrant students and that they may be receiving tuition breaks totaling $2 million.
"It is clear you cannot do this," McDonough said. "We have two attorneys general's opinions. What you have here is, you have public officials . . . in collusion, practicing an illegal act that costs the taxpayers money."
McDonough said he doesn't know whether any other public universities in the region give tuition breaks to illegal immigrants.
McDonough said he planned to request both criminal and civil investigations of the community college.
I surveyed several other public colleges and universities in the area to ask about this issue.
The only detailed reply came from the University of Maryland. Spokeswoman Beth Cavanaugh referred me to University System of Maryland policy, which states that students must demonstrate "a legal ability under Federal and Maryland law to live permanently without interruption in Maryland" to be considered for in-state tuition.
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Daniel de Vise
| October 27, 2010; 11:36 AM ET
Categories: Access, Administration, Community Colleges, Finance, Public policy | Tags: Montgomery College, Pat MDonough, college tuition in-state immigrants, illegal immigrant college tuition, illegal immigrants college Maryland
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