January 5, 2018

Bills Would Allow In-State Tuition For Undocumented Students

Indiana State Capitol building. - WFYI Public Media

Indiana State Capitol building.

WFYI Public Media

Two bills filed in the Indiana General Assembly would give different ways for immigrants who graduate from an Indiana high school to be eligible for in-state tuition.

Since 2011 Indiana makes immigrant students who cannot prove state residency pay the more expensive out-of-state tuition rate. It is one of three states with this requirement.

Sen. Mark Stoops (D-Bloomington) says Senate Bill 319 would help with a priority of the Republican supermajority: to better prepare students for jobs.

“This is a way to increase a number of people with degrees in our state. They are paying tuition, they are just not paying out of state tuition rates,” he says of the families of undocumented students. “They are  enrolling in state colleges and universities and that is something I would think we would want to encourage.”

The difference in resident and nonresident tuition rates ranges from $153 to $760 per credit hour in the state, according to a fiscal analysis by the Indiana nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

Advocates for the change have said immigrant students are unable to pay the higher amount because they don't qualify for state or federal aid.

Stoops’ bill would allow students who attend a high school in Indiana for at least three years and graduate be eligible for the resident tuition rate at state colleges and universities beginning in fall 2018.

Senate Bill 227 by South Bend Democrat Sen. David Niezgodski is a little different.

Students would only need to attend a school for 12 months before graduation. But they would then be required to sign an affidavit saying they will apply for citizenship as soon as the opportunity is made available

"These students see Indiana as their home, so why should we deny them the privileges granted to all Hoosiers?,” Niezgodski says in a statement.

Neither bill is scheduled to be heard yet.

Last fall a legislative study committee looked into changing a 2011 law that prohibits undocumented students from paying in-state tuition at public colleges. The issue did not receive enough votes to be recommended for legislation during the 2018 assembly, though that has not stopped lawmakers from writing bills.

Another bill by Rep. Earl Harris Jr. (D-East Chicago) is expected to be filed soon.

The proposed legislation comes as President Donald Trump and Congress determine the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act, or DACA. The program, which protects undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, expires March 6.

Nearly 10,000 people in Indiana are approved for benefits through DACA, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

At most state colleges, students not enrolled in DACA are required to pay the more expensive out-of-state cost.

Contact WFYI education reporter Eric Weddle at eweddle@wfyi.org or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.


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