Today, the Committee on Higher Education and Employment Advancement will hold a public hearing on Gov. Malloy's proposal to allow in-state tuition for undocumented students. Click here to read my write-up on the recent rally held in New Haven in support of the legislation.
UPDATE: The public hearing is over. I'll post highlights from the event later.
A coalition of students, clergy members and elected officials held a news conference at the Legislative Office Building today to urge support for House Bill 6390, “An Act Concerning Post Secondary Education,” which would allow all state residents and graduates of Connecticut high schools to attend community colleges and state universities at the in-state tuition rate regardless of their immigration status.
The press conference was attended by a number of elected officials, including Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman; Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney (D-New Haven / Hamden); Senator Toni Harp (D-New Haven); Senator Edith Prague (D-Columbia); and State Rep. Juan Candelaria (D-New Haven). They were joined by Fr. James Manship Pastor St Rose of Lima, New Haven; Isaias T. Diaz, Chairman of the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission (LPRAC); and a few students who would be affected by the legislation.
Currently, Connecticut residents pay approximately one third of the “out of state” tuition rate charged to non-Connecticut residents and to Connecticut students who do not have U.S. citizenship. Nearly 10 other states, including Texas and California, have already passed bills allowing for in-state tuition for all their residents.
Some argue that it would be too costly to implement the in-state tuition bill but the General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Analysis said it wasn’t clear the 2007 version of the bill had any cost at all. The fiscal note predicted that the proposal could result in a revenue loss to some schools but a revenue gain at others, “… if additional students chose to attend school as a result of lower tuition rates.”
“These young people are the friends and classmates of our own children and grandchildren. They are Connecticut residents and are American in every way except for the circumstances of their childhood. They should not have to suffer for a decision that their parents made very long ago,” Senator Looney said. “It's also important to note that the legislation as passed but vetoed in 2007 did not provide any sort of scholarships or financial aid for these students--it simply allowed them to pay in-state tuition rates.”
“Some of those who argue against this initiative say we’ll be inundated with second-generation immigrants clambering to attend college and first of all, I see nothing wrong with that. Second, this new law would require them and their parents to pull their weight and pay state income tax, and third, the ten states that already have this policy don’t report that inundation,” Senator Prague said. “It just seems contradictory to me to deny in-state college tuition for the exact same students we are required to educate through high school. It would be to our advantage to have them go on and earn a college degree.”
“This new law would be a realistic acknowledgement that students from other countries are not going to suddenly disappear – many have grown up here and know no other culture – so they really should be given a chance to succeed and contribute to the best of their ability,” Senator Toni N. Harp said. “In Connecticut, regardless of heritage, it simply follows that college graduates are more likely to qualify for higher-paying jobs that in turn will attract a higher caliber of employers and generate more residual economic activity.”
Rep. Juan Candelaria said, “Access to affordable education is a moral issue. These students are not asking for a free ride - they are and have been paying their way with personal sacrifices and their willingness to improve themselves and become productive individuals. Their courage to stand up for what they feel is fair is commendable. I am with them in support of in-state tuition legislation on behalf of many excellent individuals who live in our great state and are forced to pay out of state fees because of their legal status.”
“It is essential in today’s society to provide opportunities for people to work hard in order to continue the process of maintaining diligent work ethic,” said Chairman Diaz.
Fr. James Manship said, “We’ve heard it over and over again the importance of education, for individuals, for communities, and for our state. It makes no sense to effectively deny access to higher education to students who have attended four years of a Connecticut high school and who have distinguished themselves academically, by treating them differently than their classmates graduating with them. HB 6390 makes sense for us as state to promote excellence in education at all levels. HB 6390 makes sense for the state because high achieving students will be high achieving graduates and contribute to the wellbeing of all in our state."
“All Connecticut students deserve the opportunity to go to college regardless of their immigration status,” said Tara Parrish, Lead Organizer for Hartford Areas Rally Together. “Passing in-state tuition can create additional revenue and it sends the message that if Connecticut students work hard, they will have access to higher education. Passing in-state tuition is good for all of us in Connecticut.”