CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — University System of New Hampshire college students who entered the U.S. illegally would get in-state tuition if they met certain requirements under a bill passed Wednesday by the House.
The House voted 188-155 to pass the bill, which treats the immigrants like residents. The Senate next takes up the bill.
The students would have to be a graduate of a high school in the state or have gotten a New Hampshire high school equivalency certificate. They would have had to attend a state high school for at least three years and have met all the other criteria for in-state rates.
The students also would be required to apply for legal residency if they have not already done so and file a copy with the university system.
Supporters argued many of the students are brought into the country as children, are raised as Americans and don’t realize they don’t qualify for privileges such as in-state tuition until they are teenagers.
“If we deny in-state tuition to a child brought here (while) young, we are punishing that child for the sins of his parents,” argued Rep. Andrew Schmidt, a Grantham Democrat.
Opponents argued it isn’t fair for out-of-state students to pay higher tuition than students in the country illegally.
“Children of lawbreakers should not be allowed to benefit from a crime,” insisted Republican Rep. Ralph Boehm of Litchfield.
Boehm said the families living illegally in the U.S. had already stolen from taxpayers by sending their children free to secondary schools.
“We will hear this is not the children’s fault. Now they will know the children are criminals,” he said.
In-state tuition at the University of New Hampshire is $13,670 this year compared with $26,390 for a non-resident. At Keene State College and Plymouth State University, the in-state rate is $10,410 compared with more than $17,000 for out-of-state students.
The bill would modify a law passed in 2012 that took effect last year, requiring students receiving in-state tuition to file an affidavit attesting that they are legal residents of the United States. The law was passed after much debate over whether young people living illegally in New Hampshire and attending its secondary schools deserved the same financial break as legal residents.
Eva Castillo-Turgeon, a New Hampshire-based advocate with the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Center, has estimated the bill would affect about 100 students, but Schmidt said probably only 10 students would have the financial resources to take advantage of the bill since they would not qualify for federal aid or other scholarships.
Fifteen states allow students who have lived illegally in the U.S. for several years to become eligible for in-state tuition if they met certain criteria, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
A federal law passed in 1996 sought to prohibit states from providing the in-state benefit to people who live in the U.S. without legal permission unless a citizen is eligible for the same benefit, but NCSL says there is disagreement over what the provision means and no federal guidance has been issued.
Changes to the law aimed at helping young immigrants attend college who were brought into the country illegally by their parents has stalled in Congress.
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