More higher education news from North Carolina: apparently illegal immigrants may soon be able to attend state community colleges. According to an article by Mark Johnson in the Charlotte Observer:

The State Community College Board cast a final vote Friday to admit illegal immigrants at the 58 community college campuses. Illegal immigrants will have to pay out-of-state tuition, about $7,700 a year, and they can be removed from a class if it is full and a legal resident wants in.

The vote was the last step by the board in approving the new rule. It originally voted in favor of the change in September, and the vote Friday confirmed the decision after a public hearing in December and written comments.

In 2008 North Carolina became the first state in the country to ban illegal immigrants from accessing its higher education system entirely. Is this a move toward sympathetic immigration reform?

While some seem to think so—William Gheen, president of the anti-immigration group Americans for Legal Immigration, said that the State Community College Board decision was “part of a much larger national agenda. There’s an agenda afoot here, and they intend to give [illegal immigrants] all the benefits of full American citizens.”—the new policy might exist for more cynical reasons. It may be just a revenue source.

Because the illegal immigrants will be ineligible for in-state tuition, their presence will actually add money to the school. Out-of-state tuition is higher than the operation cost of community colleges. An April review of North Carolina’s finances conducted by an outside firm concluded that colleges could make money admitting illegal immigrants.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer