History was made this month in Omaha, Nebraska as a judge threw out a frivolous lawsuit while confirming that a land grant university is required to offer a fairly priced education to the citizens of a state if they meet residency requirements.

The lawsuit filed in January claimed that taxes from the Fairbury residents were being used to support the state’s immigration-tuition law in violation of federal law. The lawsuit named the University of Nebraska Board of Regents and other state college boards as defendants and asked the judge to prevent school officials from following the law….

The state law passed in 2005 says students whose parents brought them to the U.S. illegally may pay the lower in-state tuition fees, as long as they graduated from Nebraska high schools, lived in the state for at least three years and are pursuing or promise to pursue legal status. The rules for residency requirements and nonresident tuition fees are governed by state law.

Opponents of the law say it is unfair to legal residents and conflicts with both the U.S. Constitution and a 1996 federal law that prohibits higher education institutions giving benefits to illegal immigrants without offering the same break to U.S. citizens.

In-state tuition can be significantly cheaper than fees for out-of-state residents. For example, undergraduate tuition at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is about $6,000 per year for in-state students and $17,650 for those from out of state.

The judge made the right decision. When we begin to draw facetious battle lines in the dirt based on birthright, and not residency, we begin to ratchet up elitism while repressing hope. If a person lives in a State, and contributes to the ongoing well being of a State, then that person deserves the full benefits of residency.

If we were smarter as a country, we would offer free college teaching to anyone who wanted to spend the time earning a degree. That idea would cost a lot upfront — all tradition-shattering ideas are always expensive at the start — but the benefits of having a much more highly educated populace would quite soon outweigh the high price of 100% subsidized tuition.

When everyone in the room and the city and the county and the State are smarter — then everyone’s intellectual boat rises — and we begin to float above, and away from, the petty differences that have needlessly separated and divided us over time while costing us too much lost sweat equity and time to fight.

4 Comments

  1. If we were smarter as a country, we would offer free college teaching to anyone who wanted to spend the time earning a degree.

    When I was at Rutgers, there were people whose parents paid for their degree and their parents would remind them of how much every hour of their college life was costing them — and thus how important it was not to waste those hours. I wonder if the same point could be made if the student were thinking, “Eh, this doesn’t cost me anything regardless!”

    1. I think that’s a major problem, Gordon. If the kids on a free ride from their parents don’t really care about what they’re being given, then that’s a failure of parenting. Reading and writing is a basic tenet of a civilized humanity, and we must demand and require that each of us are able to function in that literate society.

  2. It would be wonderful if everyone had access to the education they wanted. I don’t think it should be free nor do I think that students should start their working life under the burden of huge debt. Maybe there is a happy compromise somewhere. Also, it would probably be helpful if society thought about the sanity of requiring a person who works, for example, in an admin. role, to have a bachelors degree. Some people don’t want to go to University but do because they won’t be able to get a job that won’t use what they have learnt anyway, unless they do. Wouldn’t it save resources if those who really wanted to study, could, for minimal tuition fees, and those who really don’t want to study could just obtain work? I am about to return to study for my third bachelors degree and cannot wait for the year to begin. And I know people who didn’t go to uni who love the jobs they have. Meritocracy comes to mind. Happy New Year to all. Hope that 2011 is kind to all of us.

    1. Hi kathe!

      Great to hear from you and we send you our best New Year wishes, too. I like the idea of a free university for anyone who wants to learn more. You don’t have to be in a degree program. You go, and you learn from the vetted best, and you come and go as you like and get as many degrees as you like, or none. I just want you to have free and total access to similar, eager, minds.

      I honor craftsmen. The world was built on their backs.

      http://urbansemiotic.com/2007/11/26/the-world-was-built-on-the-back-of-labor/

      I do not like the idea of a One Year Masters degree:

      http://urbansemiotic.com/2007/06/14/one-year-master/

      I find PhD grade inflation terribly problematic:

      http://urbansemiotic.com/2005/05/30/phd-grade-inflation/