RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – For the 14th straight year, the NAACP is asking North Carolina legislators to approve in-state tuition for undocumented students.
Their “No Room at the Inn” event Thursday was in reference to the story of Mary and Joseph being pointed to a manger just before the birth of Jesus.
“There was no room at the inn for them back then and there’s still no room for our brown brothers and sisters now,” said Rev. Dr. T Anthony Spearman with the NAACP NC.
Around the country only a hand full of states allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition or to qualify for financial aid. Higher education activists believe access to affordable in state tuition is crucial.
“As someone who’s also undocumented I’m telling you because it’s personal. It’s my livelihood and we are here to say no more,” said Maria Mayorga with Adelante Education Coalition.
North Carolina graduates about 3,000 undocumented students from high schools every year, according to Migration Policy. That puts them — tying with Georgia — in fifth place for states with the most undocumented high school graduates.
Some of those graduates then go on to higher education. A study from the New American Economy shows North Carolina is home to a 11,000 undocumented college students. Tied with Virginia, the state carried the ninth highest number of undocumented college students.
Among all undocumented students, the study also found close to half were brought to the U.S. before the age of 12.
“The local community colleges gets thousands of dollars from us when we pay out-of-state tuition. A lot of us can’t do it. I can’t,” said Mayorga.
“We’re talking about young people who have to live their life under attack,” Eliazar Posada with El Centro Hispano.
Posada said the state needs more overall diversity in higher education.
“Not just in-state tuition but equitable access to education for all our documented and undocumented students of any race or color,” said Posada.
The NAACP said they are ready to “pound the pavement” in 2021 and once again ask legislators to reconsider college tuition rules.
However, a bill getting the General Assembly to change the law in 2021 may be harder than ever with state colleges losing millions of dollars due to the COVID-19 pandemic.