The Real Deal: Tuition equality and why it matters

Hello again, readers. I’m sorry for my absence, but I hope that you’ve been enjoying reading our weekly column as much as we enjoy writing for all of you. For this week’s article, I’m actually going to be talking about something a bit more local, and that is the issue of tuition equality. It is an important issue for us here in Michigan, particularly at OU. For those of you who might be unaware of what tuition equality (or tuition equity) is, it refers to efforts or laws that may be passed at a university or in a respective state to grant in-state tuition rates to students who may be undocumented if they are seeking to become citizens. Otherwise, they would be in the position of paying higher tuition increments, despite living in the state for a similar amount of time as their peers, or even if they completed elementary through high school in the state.

This has been a long-standing movement across the country’s state legislatures and college campuses, including the state of Michigan. In 2013, state representatives Rashida Tlaib and Jeff Irwin sponsored a bill in favor of implementing tuition equality for undocumented students who qualified for other programs. They also sponsored a host of other packages intending to make access to services more accessible for undocumented immigrants. While the bill was unable to go through — mostly because of the Republican-controlled legislature — Michigan remains fairly unique on this issue in that, compared to the other 50 states, we do not have a statewide law that makes tuition equality a reality at our colleges and universities across the board. We do, however, have internal rulings made at some of our schools to implement tuition equality.

I would like to praise the University of Michigan (not for that game, though) and Eastern Michigan University for their decisions to implement tuition equality. In response to student protests and pressure from non-profits and advocacy groups, these schools have set a new precedent for their counterparts across the state and have held true to the idea that America is made stronger when we include more people in our society. These people have fled poverty and violence in their native lands to seek opportunity in our country, and I personally believe we ought to be flattered that they choose to come to us despite our economic and social woes. We may as well argue that their arrival here is illegal, but we should not be punishing those who have adopted the American spirit into their own. These people want to give back by getting right with the law and eventually becoming hard working members of our societies.

As for the state of tuition equality at Oakland University, it is still in the works. The OU Student Congress legislature has recently made a unanimous vote for a resolution to apply tuition equality at our school, but we have yet to know how much further this resolution has to go or whether everyone will support these members of our community. For those of you who wish to get further involved, I would urge you to attend an OUSC meeting to voice your concerns or to talk a legislator or the Diversity and Inclusion Director Anders Engnell.