Earlier this week, Gov. Jerry Brown made good on his campaign vow to Hispanic voters to sign California's version of the DREAM Act.
With the law's enactment, effective Jan. 1, 2012, currently enrolled and future students who are illegal aliens could pay the same tuition rates as legal state residents. The difference can be steep, with full-time out-of-state students paying as much as five times more than in-state counterparts at various University of California campuses.
And to think I was under the impression that California is in the grips of a severe budget deficit. Apparently, when it comes to the DREAM Act, money (or the lack of it) is not an issue.
On education, K-12 teachers and full freight university students are under financial siege. From New York to California, huge cuts in state budgets have created looming layoffs for millions of teachers. For the lucky ones that hold onto their positions, their salaries are frozen.
Higher education is no better. According to a study by the College Board, for the school year 2010-11, in-state tuition and related fees at public four-year colleges and universities rose to $7,605, up 7.9 percent from a year ago. At private four-year institutions, the average cost rose 4.5 percent to $27,293.
As a direct result of a 20-percent cut in state education funding during the past two years, California State University students are paying more. Tuition rose 5 percent this year, after jumps of 10 percent annually for the past few years.
Undergraduates at the University of California system are faring just as poorly. Faced with a $1 billion operating budget gap, last November the UC Regents approved an 8 percent tuition increase for 2011-12. Then, earlier this month, UC administrators approved another jump, this one for 9.6 percent. UC has raised tuition nine times in the past 10 years, more than tripling its rates.
Even community colleges, where 40 percent of college students begin their advanced educations, feel the pinch. Fees are up across the board.
"Prices are continuing to rise more rapidly than the rate of inflation, particularly in the public sector," said Sandy Baum, independent policy analyst at the College Board. "Public colleges and universities are getting less money from the states because the states just don't have money to give them."
Baum's explanation for soaring tuition raises the obvious question: If neither the federal government nor the states have enough money to provide funding to stabilize fees for currently enrolled university students, how can universities afford to finance at reduced rates millions of illegal aliens' educations? The answer is, they can't.
After it was defeated during last year's lame duck session, Obama said, "My administration will not give up on the DREAM Act ..." Obama has made good on that promise. In fact, his administration authorized Immigration and Customs Enforcement to grant an administrative amnesty to alien students who may be subject to deportation.
The harsh reality is that the DREAM Act increases taxes to overburdened citizens and limits admission opportunities for American students whose parents have subsidized public education for decades.
Nevertheless, Obama recklessly presses ahead, hoping that the DREAM Act will catch lightning in a bottle with Hispanic voters in 2012. If Obama had the nation's best interests in mind, he'd put unemployment and the nation's crippling debt on the top of his to-do list.
Obama and kindred spirits like Gov. Brown have made state versions of the DREAM Act an unpleasant reality regardless of its adverse impact on taxpayers and aspiring citizen students.
Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008. He lives in Pennsylvania which neither has nor is considering DREAM Act legislation. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.