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Tuition Equity?

Pete Springer/OPB

It’s a debate that has lingered for more than six years in Oregon, and the issue is back on the table in the Oregon legislature: Should illegal immigrants who graduate from Oregon high schools be allowed to pay the in-state tuition rate in college? Presently, illegal immigrants in Oregon who are accepted to Oregon public colleges must pay the out-of-state tuition rate, which is as high as $19,900 at some schools — far greater than the roughly $6,000 that in-state students pay.

Illegal immigrants are also unable to receive financial aid or federal loans, and the expense makes going to college virtually impossible.

Like Oregon, the country is split on this issue. Ten states have already passed legislation allowing illegal immigrants in-state status, while four others have explicitly banned illegal immigrants from paying the in-state rate. With the DREAM Act, the U.S. Congress is also considering legislation that would provide a path to citizenship and give states more leeway to determine residency for undocumented students

Oregon’s House Bill 2939 would allow undocumented students who graduate from high schools and are accepted to Oregon’s public colleges to pay the much cheaper in-state tuition rate. Proponents say it’s the best way to create productive members of society. Otherwise, the argument goes, these students are more likely to become dependent on the state for other programs.

But opponents say that’s unfair — not to mention illegal — and point to a similar 2001 California law that was recently ruled in violation of the 1996 federal Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act.

What do you think? Is it unfair to allow illegal immigrants — many of whom were brought to the U.S. when they were children — to pay in-state tuition rates? If you’re in this country illegally and finishing high school, would the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition mean the difference between attending or not attending college? What opportunities would you have with a college diploma, but no legal residency? What would you do if college weren’t an option?

If you a are legal resident studying in an Oregon university, how would this bill affect you?

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