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April 7, 2013

State debates tuition discount for immigrants

INDIANAPOLIS — Two years after banning the children of undocumented immigrants from paying in-state tuition rates at the state’s public universities, Indiana legislators are debating whether to roll back that prohibition.

The Republican-controlled Senate has already passed a bill that would partially roll back the ban, to cover students who started college when the 2011 law went into effect.

But now, some members of the House Committee on Education, including its influential Republican chairman, Rep. Bob Behning of Indianapolis, want to clear the path to college for more immigrant children.

Behning wants to expand Senate Bill 207 to allow the children of undocumented immigrants to pay the same tuition rate at the state’s public universities as other Indiana residents do.

Under an amendment he proposed Thursday in committee, those children would have to meet certain conditions to qualify. Among them: They’d have to start attending high school in Indiana as a freshman, graduate on time with at least a C average, and have no criminal record.

“We’d be holding them to a higher standard than we do other Hoosiers,” Behning said.

Behning’s committee heard testimony on the bill Thursday. The bill is scheduled for a committee vote next Tuesday.

Supporters of Behning’s proposal said children shouldn’t be priced out of college because their parents decided to immigrate illegally. They pointed out that under the new federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, a vast majority of undocumented children won’t be deported.

“Look into your hearts and ask, ‘What are we doing to these kids?” said Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, the first Republican Hispanic in the Indiana General Assembly and a sponsor of Senate Bill 207. “These kids didn’t break the law, their parents did.”

But opponents argued the state shouldn’t be subsidizing a college education for the children of people who violated immigration laws.

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