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April 10, 2013

Immigrant college tuition bill moves to full House

It rolls back 2011 ban on undocumented students receiving in-state tuition at colleges

INDIANAPOLIS — The debate over in-state college tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants is headed for the Indiana House of Representatives.

On Tuesday, the House Education Committee voted 8-4 for a bill that would partially roll back a 2011 law that bans undocumented students who grew up in Indiana from accessing the lower in-state tuition rate at the state’s public universities. The 2011 law, which requires they pay the more expensive out-of-state rate, led to hundreds of students dropping out.

The version of Senate Bill 207 that passed out of the House committee only covers the students who were enrolled in college when the ban went into effect two years ago.

But Republican bill backers want to expand the  legislation’s language to cover more students. With support from Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, they plan to introduce an amendment to do so when the bill comes up for debate in the full House.

“It really comes down to this: Every child in our state needs the opportunity to have an education,” said state Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, a Republican from Syracuse and the House sponsor of Senate Bill 207. 

House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning, an Indianapolis Republican, wanted to amend the bill in committee to expand it to cover children who met the new federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. That policy stops the deportation of immigrant children who were brought to the U.S. by their parents illegally.

But he decided to pull the amendment back after meeting resistance from some other Republicans on the committee and take the debate to the House floor instead. Behning said he has the support of Bosma, who’s been out of the Statehouse recovering from knee surgery.

Behning risks some political pushback for doing so. Opponents of the bill, including a group called IFIRE — Indiana Federation for Immigration Reform & Enforcement — argue that students who aren’t U.S. citizens have no right to the lower tuition rates.

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