Undocumented students push for change to tuition policy
RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Dozens of undocumented students at Wake Technical Community College are pushing for changes to a policy that requires them to pay out-of-state tuition.
The students are forced to pay the out-of-state fees, which are nearly four times the cost of in-state tuition, even if they graduated from a North Carolina high school and have been living in the state for some time.
Five students were arrested at Thursday's protest after repeated warnings to leave the campus. Wake Tech officials said the group didn't file the proper paperwork to protest at the college. The five individuals, ranging in age from 17-27, are all charged with second-degree trespassing.
Meanwhile, undocumented students moved their demonstration to the highway demanding equal tuition rights.
"I think it's discriminatory because they give us the opportunity already to be able to study here. We work really hard," said undocumented student Jose Rico.
Rico is one of the students who was arrested. He has been in community college for five years, lived in North Carolina for 10, and graduated from a North Carolina high school with a 3.9 GPA. Still, Rico is undocumented and forced to pay out-of-state tuition.
"It's almost $4,000 per semester. So I was able to go for like a year and a half. And I have to be taking one class per semester at a time, so it's been a long process for me to go to the next step," Rico said.
Rico said he also received a letter from Wake Tech last spring stating that undocumented students couldn't register for classes until one week after everyone else.
"I couldn't take any math or physics classes because they said it was already a week after, and they said I wasn't going to be able to catch up," Rico said.
Wake Tech President Dr. Stephen Scott said that with record enrollment this year, the college cannot guarantee classes.
"They can register in a more timely fashion, but still the number of people wanting our classes far exceeds our ability to deliver our resources," Scott said.
Federal law also prohibits colleges from granting undocumented students professional licenses and certain financial aid.
Cruz Nunez graduates from high school next year, but fears he won't be able to afford the costly tuition.
"We all have dreams, we have American dreams that we want to pursue, and we just want to fulfill them," Nunez said.
Critics say allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition is too costly and tax dollars should not go to support their education. They also say it takes away from U.S. citizens and legal immigrants in a tough economy.
The students said they are planning meetings with North Carolina Community College System and UNC System to try and get the policy changed.
wake county, local/state, heather waliga
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