Prescott College, a private college in Arizona, has caused a firestorm of controversy over the creation of a fee to fund a scholarship for illegal immigrants. Students can decline the $30 annual fee but must do so affirmatively — otherwise it is automatically added to their $28,000 tuition.
The faculty and students at the college voted to create the scholarships to reverse the image of Arizona as a “national example of discriminatory politics.” The move was praised by President John Flicker who said “I am proud that our students take on the role of scholar activists” and promised to do more to “broaden access to higher education for a diverse group of students” and work for “social justice.”
Clearly the college can extend scholarships to anyone that it deems worthy. However, I have serious problems with imposing this type of charge on students and requiring them to affirmatively bow out rather than requiring them to affirmatively accept the charge. The fact is that many Americans are opposed to immigration reforms allowing undocumented immigrants to secure licenses or other benefits. Such a position does not mean you are racist or hateful. I have long been critical of companies that get people to accept offers but, in fine print, automatically renew the subscriber unless they affirmatively ask out of the offer. It is disheartening to see educational institutions adopt such tactics, particularly on an issue of such deep philosophical division.
On the merits, I would simply add that a college can affirm that it is open to the admission of undocumented persons while making scholarships available to all students regardless of their status. Such a system guarantees that undocumented persons will be given scholarships if they are the most qualified academically. Likewise, the school can simply reaffirm that undocumented persons will be treated equally on scholarships based on need without reference to their status. Instead, the college is imposing a fee for a scholarship for undocumented persons as a group on all other students unless they affirmatively ask not to be charged for that scholarship.
What do you think?