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October 04, 2011

The Last Defense of Texas' Tuition Law

Jonathan Last has a must-read article in the Weekly Standard explaining and defending the Texas tuition law that Rick Perry's been taking hits for the past few weeks. Last starts by noting that Perry has done an awful job defending a law that's easily defensible, and I agree.

Let's start with the obvious. Perry's first answer when asked about the Texas law should have been: "What's right for Texas may not be right for every state. We in Texas decided that we wanted all of our students to be able to go to college at in-state rates. Now that's not a free education, they've still got to pay the in-state rate, but it's something. And it gets all of our students in a position to be healthy, productive members of society. This wasn't like the federal DREAM Act, which is an amnesty. I don't support amnesty."

Easy-peasy and it would have been the last we'd heard of it. Since that didn't work out, I highly recommend Last's explanation of the law and its benefits and the incoherence of the law's recent detractors. And they have been recent. The law at its time of creation and presently remains exceptionally popular in Texas.

Some excerpts follow. First, noting that this doesn't actually cost as much as the detractors would like you to believe:

Texas Republicans understood that tuition isn’t all that important to the state university system. Texas schools are funded largely by the state sales tax, which everyone​—​both legal and illegal residents​—​pays. (Texas has no state income tax; most revenues come from consumption taxes.) Republicans argued that, as a matter of fairness, illegal immigrants had been funding the colleges just like everybody else. (This relative unimportance of tuition as a funding source is why both in-state and out-of-state tuition rates at Texas schools are far below the national average.)

Another reason was Texas’s Permanent University Fund, which National Review’s Kevin Williamson charmingly explains: “Early in the 20th century, the state of Texas gave the universities a whole bunch of land, which turned out to have a whole bunch of oil on it, and West Texas is full of wells bobbing up and down and pumping grade-A education out of the ground.” In other words, tuition at most Texas schools is used more to control enrollment than to raise funds.

Second, explaining how few slots are getting "stolen" by illegals.

It turns out that of the 1.8 million students enrolled in Texas higher-ed, only 16,476 students are illegals (the state refers to these kids as “affidavit students”). Of those, 12,028 go to two-year community colleges. For the most part these schools have noncompetitive admissions and hardly any out-of-state students. A vanishingly small number go to the state’s competitive flagship schools: The University of Texas has 612 of them; A&M has 362.

And finally, the frickin' obvious for conservatives:

[I]f the people of Texas decided to use their tax dollars to subsidize kids who grew up illegally in Texas rather than kids who grew up legally in New Jersey, that’s their right.

Click over and read the whole thing. He includes quite a bit of healthy snark directed at Romney.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 07:28 AM

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