Immigrant tuition breaks prompt Md. suit
Updated at noon Thursday with statement from Montgomery College.
A Maryland lawmaker says he will announce a lawsuit against Montgomery College on Thursday challenging the institution's practice of charging lower
fees tuition to illegal immigrants who live in the county.
Del. Patrick McDonough, a Baltimore County Republican, stirred debate about immigrant education policy last fall when he asked state prosecutors to investigate whether the state's largest community college is breaking the law by allowing illegal immigrants to enroll as residents and claim the tuition discount.
It's an unusual policy. Some Virginia public universities don't even allow admission to illegal immigrants. Schools that do enroll such students generally charge them higher non-resident tuition.
Virginia and Maryland have pursued opposite legislative paths on the issue, with Maryland lawmakers repeatedly trying and failing to secure resident tuition benefits for illegal immigrants and Virginia legislators trying and failing to bar illegal immigrants from public higher education (a package of bills is now in play, according to colleague Fredrick Kunkle).
William E. "Brit" Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, said in an interview Wednesday that he supports the idea of charging resident fees to public school graduates, legal or not. Illegal immigrants are allowed free public education through grade 12. To then deny them resident fees in college would be "illogical," he said.
"I think it is not in our nation's interest to miss out on the opportunity to educate larger numbers of people," he said.
McDonough has called a press conference for 2 p.m. Thursday in Annapolis to announce the legal filing and the results of the investigation into the college's policy, according to a release.
The conference "will be only the first step toward both a civil and a criminal investigation into the unlawful activities in Montgomery County that impact all taxpayers in Maryland," McDonough said in the statement.
The release does not say whether a suit has already been filed or, if so, in what court. The lawmaker says he will be joined at the conference by Tom Fitton, president of the conservative watchdog Judicial Watch.
Montgomery College grants tuition breaks to illegal immigrants under a policy that charges local
fees tuition to any recent graduate of the county's public high schools. Tuition totals $321 for a three-credit course, compared with $657 for Marylanders from other counties and $897 for everyone else.
The college said Thursday in a statement, "As the community's college, Montgomery College proudly provides everyone with open access to higher education in Montgomery County . . . Delegate Pat McDonough (Baltimore and Harford Counties) does not represent Montgomery County, nor has he sought to visit Montgomery College and learn about our students."
College officials say their policy follows the law.
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Daniel de Vise
| January 19, 2011; 5:45 PM ET
Categories: Access, Community Colleges, Litigation, Public policy | Tags: Maryland colleges illegal immigrants, Montgomery College illegal immigrants, illegal immigrant college students, illegal immigrant college tuition
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