Saturday, July 20, 2024

MA Lawmakers to Revisit In-State Tuition Legislation for Undocumented Students

Three years ago, lawmakers in the only state to mandate health care and the first to legalize gay marriage, struck down a bill that would have allowed illegal immigrants to attend college at in-state tuition rates. With 10 other states – some far more conservative – having adopted such legislation, Massachusetts lawmakers are poised to revisit this issue.

“Massachusetts is out in front of so many things,” said Harris Gruman, executive director of the Service Employees International Union Massachusetts State Council. “But Massachusetts is behind on this.”

Since 2006, when the bill was rejected, activists have worked to build alliances with union members, business leaders and academics. This time around, many undocumented students plan to directly lobby key lawmakers by sharing their stories in meetings. This increased effort will likely help the bill’s chances. Democratic Governor Deval Patrick is also in support of the bill, unlike former Governor Mitt Romney who opposed it in 2006.

State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston) said that the state’s Higher Education Committee will likely hold hearings on this issue later this year or early next. “Time is our friend here,” she said. “We’ve had more time to talk to more people collectively … and get them more comfortable with it.”

As of late, California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin are the 10 states that have in-state tuition laws for undocumented students. Oklahoma repealed a similar law in 2008. Four other states – Arizona, Colorado, Georgia and South Carolina – have passed laws that ban undocumented students from being eligible for in-state tuition.

Gruman believes that because many of the more outspoken opponents are gone the bill will have a better chance. There are however, others who initially opposed the bill who are still in office.

Mario Rodas, a Guatemalan-born student who went from English as a Second Language classes to passing Advanced Placement tests in his Massachusetts high school, became the poster child for the 2006 legislation. He, like so many others, has the academic chops to succeed in college but could not afford to pay out-of-state tuition fees.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, in-state tuition at public universities is $9,704 – out-of-state tuition is $22,157. Average in-state tuition at state community colleges is $4,305 – out-of-state tuition is $10,811.

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation estimated that as many as 600 students may attend Massachusetts schools if the bill were to pass and that it will likely lead to $2.5 million of extra revenue.

Associated Press


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