GOP seeks uniformity on illegal immigrant student policies
An Illinois legislator wants to see the state adopt a uniform, transparent and fiscally sound policy on the question of illegal immigrant students attending state universities.
State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) said publicly funded universities in Illinois lack a uniform standard on accepting illegal immigrants, leading to a patchwork of policies that may be unfair to legal residents of Illinois.
“Who it’s unfair to is our own students who cannot attend,” Ives recently told DuPage Policy Journal. “I think that we had a flight of students leaving our state for other universities that give them a better deal.”
Illinois State University reported that it had 49 students who identified themselves as not in the country legally during the fall 2016 term. The number of illegal aliens who applied to become students in fall 2017 is 79.
The university stresses on its website a core value of diversity.
“Undocumented students … who apply to Illinois State are treated identically to any other U.S. citizen or permanent resident,” the university’s policy states.
Illegal immigrants who want to study at the university may also be eligible for the in-state tuition rate; they will be asked to complete an affidavit when applying for that tuition rate, according to the university website.
However, Illinois State University policies on need-based financial aid and state departmental scholarships are more nuanced. The school is prevented from handing out state or federal funds based on need to illegal immigrants, but those students can freely apply for state scholarships if they meet certain minimum requirements, according to the university website.
Ives said she is uncertain if a new state law would need to be passed to create a statewide policy on whether illegal immigrants should be allowed to attend publicly funded universities. Taxpayers are already footing the bill for illegal immigrants to get primary and secondary education -- through 12th grade -- and Ives thinks state fiscal policies need to be realistic.
“We have no budget, and we’re really broke,” she said of the state’s continuing fiscal crisis.
Meanwhile, Chicago, a self-identified sanctuary city, seems to encourage illegal aliens to attend publicly funded colleges, Ives said.
The representative fought certain bills dealing with illegal immigrant issues during the previous legislative session, as well. A bill that would have allowed noncitizens to sit as student trustees on public university governing boards went down in defeat, as did a bill that would have granted taxpayer-funded tuition assistance and loans to illegal alien students.
“At this point, we need to make sure we’re serving our citizens and our taxpayers best,” Ives said.
She continued by saying the current system may be unfair to international students who are here legally as well as legal Illinois residents. Noncitizen students who are here on student visas must follow certain rules and have ways to support themselves, while illegal immigrants who reside in the state are not held to the same standard.
In terms of public demand for spots in state universities such as Illinois State, it’s a mixed bag, according to Ives. Some of the state’s flagship universities that accept foreign students have high student populations and are limited in accepting additional legal-resident students, though other schools continue to look for students.
In Fall 2016, 148 illegal immigrant students were enrolled at Northern Illinois University (NIU) – the highest number enrolled in a single term at the university since 2011, based on information obtained by DuPage Policy Journal through a FIOA request.
Between Fall 2011 and Fall 2016, 284 illegal immigrants have been enrolled at NIU; and as of December 2016, the university had enrolled 95 undocumented immigrants for the Spring 2017 term.
Eastern Illinois University reported that between spring 2011 and fall 2016, it had 28 undocumented students enrolled. The school currently has seven illegal immigrants enrolled and as of Dec. 13 had accepted one undocumented student for the spring 2017 term.
Governors State University reported 16 illegal immigrant students enrolled at the university during the Fall 2016 term, with a total of 18 enrolled since 2011. According to the university, no illegal immigrant students had applied for Fall 2017 as of mid-December.
According to Illinois State University, 49 students who enrolled for Fall 2016 identified themselves as “Undocumented” on their applications. The university said it began tracking illegal immigrant status in 2011, and since then, 75 illegal immigrant students have attended the university. Additionally, 79 have applied for Fall 2017.
Southern Illinois University and its graduate institution – Southern Illinois University Edwardsville -- indicated that they do not keep track of illegal immigrant students enrolled in the university system. The University of Illinois provided a similar response.
Chicago State University and Western Illinois University did not respond to FOIA requests and are therefore in violation of FOIA laws.