Dear President Coleman,
We, the Coalition for Tuition Equality, call on you to put a stop to tuition discrimination against undocumented Michiganders. For too long, the University has made higher education inaccessible to a targeted group of young people. These Michiganders come to the country at a young age by no accord of their own. With their neighbors, they attend kindergarten, they graduate from high school, they apply to the University of Michigan. They are in every way a part of their Michigan communities. However, the University treats them differently than their neighbors. It forces undocumented students to pay out-of-state rates while their neighbors pay in-state tuition. It forces neighbors who grew up together to now see each other as different. It forces young Americans to forgo their dreams of a better life through education.
Maria Ibarra is one of these students. She is undocumented and aspired to a University education. At age 9, she and her mom arrived in Detroit, and since then Maria has distinguished herself as the ideal University student. She graduated from high school at the top of her class. However, nine digits, or the lack thereof, prevented her from attending her dream university — this one. Crushed, she persevered and graduated as valedictorian from the University of Detroit Mercy this May. She’s undeniably Michigan material — among the leaders and best — but may never be a Wolverine.
And Maria isn’t alone. This past Tuesday, CTE hosted a graduation ceremony for undocumented students in a powerful demonstration of what could be. We invited you, President Coleman, as well as four other leaders of your administration. To our dismay, only Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones took up our offer.
But your students did. More than one hundred students gathered on the Diag. Leaders, representing eight of the 17 student organizations in the Coalition, spoke eloquently about why their groups support tuition equality. President Coleman, we wish you could have seen it.
Standing on the steps of a library they never got the chance to use, in graduation caps and gowns, Julio Garibaldi and Xochitl Cosselyon, who are undocumented, spoke about their dreams for higher education. Julio had always dreamed of getting into Eastern Michigan University — and when he received his acceptance letter, his father promised to pay the out-of-state tuition. But then his father’s business went under and he had to pull out of the only school he ever wanted to attend.
Julio challenged us to keep fighting for tuition equality because he knows how much the other public universities look up to Michigan’s flagship campus. He knows, just as you know, President Coleman, that tuition equality at the University of Michigan will affect far more students than just those privileged enough to be accepted into our University. He knows it will bolster enrollment of low-income, first-generation students at a time when those numbers are plunging downward.
President Coleman, your actions have consequences — openly advocating for tuition equality will strongly encourage other universities to do the same. As the leader of an institution that firmly stands against discrimination and in favor of diversity, you must take steps to adopt tuition equality or risk running the University into moral ruin.
President Coleman, we want to work with you to make the University a beacon of possibility, a place accessible to all who merit it and an institution governed by ethical policy. Already, more than a dozen states have adopted tuition equality. We appreciate the effort your administration has made in the working group on tuition equality; however, President Coleman, you must do more.
President Coleman, we ask you to express support for tuition equality on the public record — so as to hold you accountable for your words.
President Coleman, we ask your administration to make its efforts to address tuition equality, including our working group, as transparent as possible — so as to hold it accountable for its actions.
We look forward to the day when the University treats every Michigander fairly, a day when undocumented students in high schools across this great state can say with certainty: a University education is more than just a dream — it’s a reality.
Until then, President Coleman, we students will lead on an issue on which you have yet to do so.
Kevin Mersol-Barg, Yonah Lieberman, Luz Meza and Sanjay Jolly are representatives for Coalition for Tuition Equality.