Undocumented immigrant tuition bill headed to Gov. Pence’s desk

A booster of undocumented immigrant college students is hopeful after the Indiana legislature approved a measure letting some of them pay in-state tuition at public colleges here, reversing a rule that makes them pay the higher non-resident rate.
Posted on April 23, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on April 23, 2013 at 12:43 p.m.

The Indiana legislature has approved a measure letting certain undocumented immigrants pay the in-state tuition rate at public colleges here, lower than the out-of-state rate they’d otherwise have to pay.

Now it’s up to Gov. Mike Pence to decide if he wants to sign it into law.

The Indiana Senate on Monday, April 22, approved a slightly amended version of Senate Bill 207 in a 34-15 vote. The three senators serving parts of Elkhart County, Sens. Carlin Yoder, Joe Zakas and Ryan Mishler, all Republicans, voted in the majority.

“I think it’s the best thing we could expect at this point in time,” said Cynthia Murphy, who works with undocumented immigrant students as a counselor at Indiana University South Bend.

Per S.B. 207, undocumented immigrants who were enrolled in a public college here as of July 1, 2011, would pay the lower in-state tuition rate. That would partially reverse a 2011 measure, House Enrolled Act 1402, making all undocumented immigrants pay the higher non-resident rate.

HEA 1402, which went into effect July 1, 2011, prompted many impacted students to drop out of college due to financial constraints or transfer to lower-cost community colleges, according to Murphy. If S.B. 207 is signed into law, she suspects some of those who dropped out to re-enroll and some of those who transferred to return to the original institutions where they were studying.

“This is a group of young people that is very community-minded. They clearly want to use their education to benefit the state of Indiana and the United States,” said Murphy, speaking Tuesday.

Murphy would rather HEA 1402 be repealed completely, allowing ongoing waves of graduating high school seniors in Indiana who are undocumented immigrants to pay the lower in-state rate. She suspects the move for such change to continue among immigrant advocates.

“I have always been a 200 percent supporter of the DREAM Act and providing educational opportunities,” she said. The federal DREAM Act would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in college, among others.

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