Out of state tuition at a North Carolina community college runs around $7,000 a year.
"This is not a policy the Board came to lightly or without contemplation and study, but with today's vote, North Carolina is a step closer to having a consistent admissions policy for undocumented immigrants among its public higher education institutions," said Hilda Pinnix-Ragland, Board Chair. "Once the administrative rules process is completed, our community colleges will be able to cease the back-and-forth of the last eight years, and these students, who are striving for a better future, will have access to a seamless educational pathway from K-12 and beyond."
There are 58 community colleges in the North Carolina system - the nation's third largest. The college board has changed its policy on illegals four times since 2000.
Opponents of the latest proposed policy change say the state shouldn't be teaching students who aren't in the country legally.
"With North Carolina's high unemployment rate sending many out-of-work citizens into already overcrowded community colleges for retraining, now is not the time for an ill-advised experiment that will further drain precious educational resources and put our state's economy in greater jeopardy," offered NC Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham).
But school officials say by paying out of state tuition rates, illegals are not a burden on taxpayers.
According to a survey last year, there were slightly over a hundred illegals enrolled in North Carolina community colleges out of a total enrollment approaching 300,000.
Policy opponents say the point is illegals shouldn't be in the country in the first place, and have no business in state community colleges.
"This decision to admit illegal aliens to our community colleges is an affront to the people of our state who value the rule of law," said State Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake). "The board has defied Governor Perdue and the majority of North Carolina citizens. We have no objection to those of other nations studying at our colleges, if they have a proper visa. But the state cannot ignore the law."