Indiana Lawmakers Mulling In-State College Tuition for Illegal Aliens

Graduating students listen to U.S. President Barack Obama speak at the University of Michigan commencement ceremony in Ann Arbor, Michigan May 1, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Indiana lawmakers are considering the possibility of making it legal for illegal aliens to receive in-state tuition at the state’s public colleges and universities.

Indiana is one of three states in the U.S. that bars illegal aliens from receiving in-state tuition, but that may be about to change.

The Indianapolis Star reports that several state lawmakers said at a legislative study committee hearing Wednesday that they would support in-state tuition for illegal aliens.

“I think it’d be a gross mistake at this point not to make some changes,” Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero) noted.

“To deny someone the pursuit of higher learning, to me, is not fair,” said Sen. Eddie Melton (D-Merrillville), who supports expanding in-state tuition for those here illegally. “I hope we can get that taken care of next session.”

Other lawmakers seemed wary about providing in-state tuition to illegal aliens who have not established residency in Indiana for very long.

“We don’t want someone to just move in, and in a matter of 12 months, you can get in state tuition,” state Sen. Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) noted.

Under current state law, illegal aliens already have access to a free public education from elementary school to high school.

Federal law states that publicly-funded colleges and universities cannot grant scholarships or financial aid to illegal aliens, but some immigration lawyers argue that lawmakers can pass legislation to allow those who entered the country illegally to receive in-state tuition.

“Students should not be deprived of a college education because of their parents’ choices,” said Angela Adams, an immigration attorney based out of Indiana.

Those who are in favor of changing the law claim that at least 21 other states allow illegal aliens to receive in-state tuition if they attend a high school within the state.

However, the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) passed during the Clinton administration states in section 505 that illegal aliens cannot be eligible for in-state tuition based on residency unless out-of-state U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents can also receive in-state tuition benefits.

“An alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State (or a political subdivision) for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident,” the law reads.

Some Indiana lawmakers, aware of the federal laws already in place, think that those in favor of passing legislation to allow in-state tuition for illegal aliens should better understand the federal laws on the books before making changes.

“I’ve got a lot of work to do until I can figure out how these (student’s) stories fit on the rule of law,” Rep. Jack Jordan (R-Bremen) told WFYI.

Indiana lawmakers have two months to debate the issue before the upcoming legislative session.

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