Board Of Governors Unanimously Approves In-State Tuition For Illegal Immigrants

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


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Following hours of testimony on both sides of the issue, the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education Monday voted unanimously to offer undocumented students in-state tuition at the state’s public university and colleges.

The measure, which takes effect in 2012, requires students to attend Rhode Island high schools for at least three years and ensures that they will have to commit to seeking legal status as soon as become eligible.

The Board of Governors took up the matter after the General Assembly failed to act during the last legislative session. On Sunday, Governor Chafee endorsed the plan, calling it an end to a “needless roadblock.”

“This measure will improve the intellectual and cultural life of our state while strengthening our workforce and helping our economy,” Chafee said. “Extending in-state tuition rates to undocumented students will allow more Rhode Islanders to go on to college.”

Every Kid Has A Right To An Education

On Monday, dozens of Rhode Islanders voiced both their support for and opposition to the measure. During the hearing, Providence City Councilwoman Sabina Matos said the plan comes down to fairness.

“I'm in support because I believe every kid should have a right to an education,” Matos said. “We're not asking for a grant, we're not asking to get any assistance, what we're asking for is the fairness that for kids that have been living in the state of Rhode Island to get in-state tuition--all we want is the fairness so that someone who went through school in the state of Rhode Island to get in-state tuition.”

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Matt Gunnip Co-President of the Master of Social Work Student Organization at Rhode Island College, presented a petition with more than 200 signatures of students in favor of the plan.

“This issue comes down to social justice. It is inherently unfair for undocumented students who graduate high school in Rhode Island to pay two and a half times the rate of other students living in Rhode Island,” Gunnip said. “Due to the economic disadvantages of undocumented children, paying such costs is not only unfair, but unaffordable.”

Must Be Stopped

Tuition rates at each of the state’s three public schools have steadily increased over the past decade. At the University of Rhode Island, in-state tuition is 9,824.00 per year while the out-of-state cost is $25,912.00. At Rhode Island College, the cost is $6,240 for in-state versus $16,526 for nonresidents. The Community College of Rhode Island charges $3,356 for in-state and $9,496 for students not from Rhode Island.

In an e-mail sent Monday, the Rhode Island Tea Party railed against the plan.

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“This is simply an end run around our Legislature who has refused to pass legislation that would do the very same thing at least FIVE YEARS in a row,” the e-mail stated. “We absolutely MUST attempt to stop this. This policy could COST the taxpayers of RI about $12,000 in taxes for each illegal alien student that attends our in-state colleges.”

During the hearing, Raymond McKay, President RI Republican Assembly, said the bottom line is offering illegal immigrant students in-state tuition is rewarding them for the illegal actions of their parents.

“I stand in opposition to this,” McKay said. “We're taking a look at an issue of bringing children forward who are going to benefit from the illegal actions of their parents. How does the Board of Governors, who is responsible for the education of the students of the state of Rhode Island, come to grasp with the fact that they are rewarding these students for the illegal actions of their parents?”

Applauding Board Of Governors

But supporters say the plan will improve the quality of Rhode Island’s workforce, which has been called into question over the past year. Kate Brock, Executive Director of Ocean State Action, said the plan rectifies a great injustice to Rhode Island youth.

“Undocumented students who came here through no fault of their own should not be denied the same access higher education that is extended to their peers and classmates,” Brock said. “I applaud the members of the Board of Governors for taking up this measure to provide in-state tuition to all Rhode Island students. Making college affordable for undocumented students who have done the right thing, studied hard and excelled academically will improve the quality of our workforce and lives and rectify a great injustice for Rhode Island youth.”

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