SUBCOMMITTEE TAKES UP BILL TO END IN-STATE TUITION FOR UNDOCUMENTED STUDENTS
|New Braunfels Senator Donna Campbell authored the bill that would end in-state tuition for undocumented students.|
(AUSTIN) — Undocumented high school graduates would no longer be eligible for in-state tuition rates under a bill considered by a Senate subcommittee Monday. The bill, SB 1819, by New Braunfels Senator Donna Campbell would end the practice first adopted in Texas in 2001. She said that more and more non-citizens are using this program each year, and said that state funds awarded to undocumented college and university students could top $100 million by 2020. "It's bad policy that awards illegal immigration in perpetuity," said Campbell. She also said she worries that undocumented applicants could push out citizen students competing for limited slots at public colleges and universities. Her bill proposes ending the program beginning in the 2016 school year, but would grandfather in anyone who has accumulated 30 credit hours by that time, allowing them to continue to pay in-state tuition rates.
The act permitting undocumented students to apply for in-state tuition was passed in 2001 by the 77th Legislature and signed into law by then-Governor Rick Perry. Under the law, undocumented students who lived in Texas for at least three years, and who graduated from a Texas high school can apply to pay in-state tuition costs at public universities. They are also required to sign an affidavit swearing that they will seek legal citizenship as soon as they meet federal eligibility requirements. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board reported that in 2013, 1.9 percent of students at Texas public colleges and universities were enrolled through the law, or about 25,000 students. If the act is repealed, an undocumented student at the University of Texas at Austin would see his or her tuition rise by more than $10,000 per semester. An undocumented student taking 15 credit hours at Austin Community College would see tuition go up by about $4000 per semester.
The proposed measure has proven controversial, and members opposed to its passage held a pre-hearing press conference to highlight their disagreements with the bill. Senator José Menéndez, who voted for the bill in 2001 as a member of the House, said that children shouldn't be punished for the decisions of their parents. "I don't think that a college education is about where you're from, it's about where you're headed," he said. "We should never close the doors of opportunity on anyone."
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, April 7 at 11 a.m.