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Undocumented students could preserve in-state tuition if bill passes

INDIANAPOLIS — When the General Assembly passed legislation in 2011 to prevent undocumented students from receiving in-state tuition for college, students already in college saw their bills shoot up.

A bill by State Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, supported by Sens. Carlin Yoder, R-Middleburry, and Earline Rodgers, D-Gary, would allow those students who were already enrolled in college as of July 1, 2011, to pay in-state tuition rates.

Victoria Hicks, who held a 4.0 grade point average, came from Mexico when she was 11 years old and lived in Bloomington. She hoped to attend Indiana University School of Law, was attending Indiana University in Bloomington, when the bill went into effect. Her costs went through the roof, and she had to drop out.

“For out-of-state tuition, $8,000 would cover two to three classes,” she said. “That same $8,000 would get me through an entire year of college (paying in-state fees).”

Yoder asked the student a question: When her family moved, did she have a choice?

“No,” she said, “You don’t have much of a say when you’re 11.”

Alicia Nieves, of Munster, said the bill allows students to complete their education and be part of the state economy.

“We have invested in them,” Nieves said, “and we’re not getting a return on investment if we deny them this opportunity.”

Allowing those students to regain their in-state tuition rate would incentivize illegal immigration, according to Greg Serbon of the Indiana Federation for Immigration Reform and Enforcement.

“Why are we going to allow someone here illegally to access in-state tuition?” Serbon said.

Yoder asked how the bill would incentivize illegal immigration, since the bill would only apply to students who were already in college when the law passed. He said there is a need to show some compassion to students who had no control over their situation.

The bill passed 8-4 out of the committee.



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