International students could get a big discount on eligible university tuition if an economic development idea succeeds in the state legislature.
The proposal (HB 481), introduced by Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell, would give in-state tuition to students from outside of New Mexico who come here to study science, engineering, technology and math.
The proposal would knock off as much as $14,000 in tuition—provided the students pledge to stay and work or start a business here after graduation and agree to live in New Mexico while they attend UNM, NMSU, New Mexico Highlands University or New Mexico Tech.
The difference between in-state and out of state tuition is usually anywhere between $12,000 and $14,000 per year at research universities, like UNM, and $4,000 to $9,000 per year more at comprehensive universities, like New Mexico Highlands.
People who come to New Mexico to study tend to spend a lot of money while they’re here and many end up staying and starting businesses.
Ghada Zribi, a Tunisian student, says she has lots of friends who’d love to join her at UNM
“Everyone wants to study in the United States, but living here and the meal plan plus the tuition, plus everything else, it’s going to be so expensive,” Zribi said. “It would be more helpful if the tuition was the same as what New Mexicans pay.”
But some folks at UNM’s Global Education Office are concerned and say they would like to bring more international students without losing revenue.
“I think it’s sort of giving away the farm,” said Pablo Torres, associate director of international admissions and recruitment at UNM. “Personally, I would like to see more support for marketing.”
Torres said that New Mexico has a visibility problem. People outside of the state don’t realize New Mexico is part of the United States. He may not be wrong. A recent cover of the New York Times Magazine showed a map of the United States, but included New Mexico as part of Mexico.
The bill does contain a few possible conflicts that may need to be resolved. It is potentially in conflict with a federal “non-immigrant intent” law that states that people who come to study in the United States plan to return to their native countries when they have completed their education. Supporters of the proposal say that there is a push at the federal level to revise that concern.
In addition to the concerns about the non-immigrant intent law, the Council of University Presidents (CUP) has also stated that universities have had to cut back spending as a result of economic recovery efforts and that they would like to see some sort of reimbursement to universities if the legislature decides to move ahead with this proposal.
The bill will now moves to the House floor.
This story is part of a reporting partnership between New Mexico In Depth, KUNM and NMPBS, People, Power and Democracy, that attempts to pull back the curtain on how the New Mexico Legislature works and, in some cases, doesn’t. It's funded by the Thornburg Foundation and the Loeks Family Fund.