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Editorial: Reserve tuition aid for citizens

Editorial: Reserve tuition aid for citizens

Citizenship should be a basic qualification for state tuition grants
Editorial: Reserve tuition aid for citizens
Photographer: Shutterstock

Residents of America are guaranteed a basic education. But they’re not guaranteed a college education.

If the government is going to provide financial aid at taxpayer expense to those seeking a college education, that aid should at least be reserved for American citizens. 

Yet Gov. Andrew Cuomo is considering legislation, passed by the Legislature earlier this week, that will make undocumented immigrants and those on temporary visas eligible for government-funded general awards and TAP, the state financial program that provides grants of up to $5,165 a year for tuition and expenses. The total cost to state taxpayers would be $27 million.

With New York’s taxes so high, how can the state afford to be so generous with taxpayer dollars to a group of people who aren’t even American citizens?

If so-called “Dreamers” want to become eligible for state assistance with college, they should be required to complete the steps to citizenship first.

Citizenship is not an unusual or untenable condition for receiving tuition aid.

In fact, the legislation passed this week requires those undocumented immigrants who accept the state tuition assistance to sign an affidavit affirming that they are seeking to legalize their immigration status or will file an application as soon as they’re able.

What if they don’t actually become citizens? Presumably, the state would have to take costly legal steps to recover the tuition grants. How successful will those efforts be? Why not wait until these individuals actually complete the citizenship process? 

Sure, when one considers the size of the state budget, more than $168 billion, $27 million is a drop in the bucket.

But consider that that $27 million is almost half the $60 million the governor plans to save by cutting state AIM aid to local towns and villages. How can the state justify tuition aid for undocumented immigrants while cutting aid to local governments for essential services?

Taxpayers already are required to fund a K-12 education for all state residents, regardless of immigration status. In New  York, that comes to more than $210,000 per student. So it’s not like the state isn’t already supporting immigrants who aspire to become citizens. 

But the state doesn’t have a bottomless well of money to support everyone who wants something, even something as noble as a college education.

At the very least, one qualification for college assistance from the state should be status as an American citizen.

For this reason, Gov. Cuomo should veto this bill.

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