Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

A Supreme Ruling: more than 41,000 winners

By Rosemary Joyce

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a California judge's ruling last year on a California state policy that treats graduates of California high schools as residents for the purposes of tuition, regardless of their immigration status.

The immediate beneficiaries of their order dismissing the appeal, according to the LA Times, are

the estimated 41,000 students — less than 1% of total enrollment — at UC, Cal State and community college campuses who qualify for the in-state discount under the 10-year-old state law. Some of those are illegal immigrants and others are U.S. citizens who attended California high schools but whose families then moved. UC estimates that 600 of them are undocumented; Cal State and community colleges say they don't have that information.

Several things about this statistical summary leapt out at me.

First, there is the parenthetical phrase, "less than 1% of total enrollment". Including that phrase in the story makes it seem like the issue should be subject to some sort of percentage cutoff. While the legal case was won, the propaganda case will be lost unless we insist that it does not matter how many students fall into this category: they graduated from California high schools, and they deserve the same chance at a college education here as all their peers.

Second, and reinforcing the idea that the moral point has been lost, there is that continued desire to know how many of the estimated 41,000 beneficiaries are undocumented immigrants. Immigration status is, as the responses from the CSU and community colleges indicate, not even relevant to college admissions. What is relevant is the preparation students bring to the challenge of gaining a college degree. That is what tells us whether the students we admit will go on to form the highly educated workforce that California has depended on.

And that leads me to my conclusion. There aren't just 41,000 beneficiaries of this decision. There are more than 37 million beneficiaries-- the entire population of the state.

We all benefit.

As William G. Tierney, director of USC's Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis, is quoted as saying in the LA Times,

"It's good economic policy for the state to have more educated workers. We do not have enough now for high-wage, high-skilled jobs".

Educated workers are what drives the economy of California. Why on earth would we not want an educated work force?