While many are celebrating graduation this time of the year, the future isn’t as bright for some graduates of North Carolina high schools because of a challenging landscape of immigration policy.
A recent study from the Migration Policy Institute reports roughly 100,000 undocumented youth will graduate from high schools across the country. North Carolina ranks 5th, tied with Georgia, for the number of graduates from our states’ high schools who do not have documented immigration status. Those 3,000 young people represent in North Carolina roughly 3 percent of the total undocumented youth graduating each year nationwide. As the state considers how to attain critical targets in post-secondary attainment statewide, these graduates from N.C. high schools should be engaged in the conversation.
That is why proposals like House Bill 319, which would grant in-state tuition to immigrant youth if they attend any of the colleges within the University of North Carolina system or a North Carolina community college, are so important. To qualify for these benefits, eligible applicants must have graduated from a high school in North Carolina, attended at least two years of high school here, and apply for legal status as soon as they are eligible to do so.
Twenty-one states across the country have embraced this proposal for tuition equity. In so doing, states are building on their existing educational investment in K-12 and ensuring the greatest possibility for all young people’s success in the economic and civic life in our country.
The research is clear: Post-secondary education means better employment opportunities and higher wages, which translate into higher tax contributions. But post-secondary education is often out of reach due to high costs and the challenges of trying to complete it while balancing work and study that many young people without documents and from low-income families face.
Adopting this legislation would allow for young immigrants to fully realize their human and economic potential.