Equity & Diversity

Community Colleges in N.C. Move to Bar Illegal Immigrants

By Scott J. Cech — May 20, 2008 1 min read
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North Carolina’s community college system last week began turning away undocumented immigrants wanting to enroll in credit-bearing classes.

By all accounts, the state system is now the only one in the nation to restrict college admission based on immigration status. The 16-campus public University of North Carolina system continues to admit undocumented immigrants, who must pay out-of-state tuition.

Until last week, the North Carolina Community College System, which as of the 2006-07 academic year had 112 degree-seeking undocumented high school graduates among about 800,000 students of all kinds at its 58 campuses, followed the same policy.

Some state systems allow their colleges to make their own policies on undocumented immigrants. Over the past several years, an increasing number of states have passed laws letting undocumented immigrants pay in-state tuition.

The community college system’s 180-degree policy shift stems from a reply to a letter officials sent in November to state Attorney General Roy A. Cooper, seeking clarification of an earlier directive.

The attorney general, a Democrat running for re-election this year, told officials on May 6 to revert to a 2001 directive prohibiting undocumented students from taking credit-bearing classes. The memo does not restrict adults from taking non-college-level courses or high school students from taking community college classes.

Audrey Kates Bailey, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Community College system, said it is complying, but asked Mr. Cooper to get additional legal clarification about the matter from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“When and if that comes, if it changes, we will respond accordingly,” Ms. Bailey said.

While it is unclear how many students are being affected, she said, “there were students who were panicked.”

A version of this article appeared in the May 21, 2008 edition of Education Week

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