Some state politicians want to make in-state tuition available to more students in Minnesota, including students who aren’t American citizens.
The House Ways and Means Committee ignored a plea from Gov. Tim Pawlenty and passed a higher education bill Wednesday that includes a provision that allows illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates.
Pawlenty, in a letter submitted Tuesday, urged the committee to remove the provision but the committee passed the bill 26 to 8.
Rep. Ray Cox, R-Northfield, and Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, are authors of the DREAM Act, or Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, Act.
The provision would allow students who attended a Minnesota high school for three years to qualify for in-state tuition rates.
If the student doesn’t have American citizenship, he or she would have to to fill out an affidavit showing he or she is in the process of gaining citizenship, Cox said.
“(The DREAM Act) was an effort on my part to keep school accessible,” he said.
Minnesota’s population isn’t growing as quickly as other states’ populations, so an educated workforce will be essential, especially as baby boomers begin to retire, he said.
Pawlenty said in a letter submitted to the Houe Ways and Means Committee that providing “in-state tuition for illegal immigrants would give them benefits not available to legal U.S. citizens who reside in most other states.”
“In other words, an Iowa high school graduate would not be eligible for in-state Minnesota tuition,” Pawlenty said.
In response to Pawlenty’s letter, Pappas said it would be possible for a student from Iowa to attend a Minnesota high school and also gain state residency.
Students have mixed views about providing in-state tuition to students who aren’t American citizens.
Political science senior Juan Rangel set up a program in which college students talk to middle and high school students about immigration status and how the DREAM Act affects them.
Rangel said the DREAM Act is an issue of equal opportunity.
“You get more access (to higher education) with in-state tuition,” Rangel said.
But first-year architecture student Beth Evanson said this bill isn’t fair to students who live outside Minnesota, but still within the United States.
“If (prospective students) are not from this country, then why should they pay less then someone from a place like Texas?” she said.
Laura Sebo, a first-year economics student, said the bill is a good idea as long as immigrants are pursuing their American citizenship.
“If they are getting in-state tuition, it could promote them to get their citizenship,” Sebo said.
Pappas said other states such as Texas, California and New York have passed similar bills.
Earlier this week Nebraska passed a law similar to the DREAM Act after the governor vetoed it, she said.