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Archive for Thursday, February 20, 2003

Committee advances noncitizen tuition break

February 20, 2003

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— A House committee Wednesday recommended approval of a bill that would give in-state tuition rates to students who have lived in Kansas for years even though their parents are undocumented workers.

The measure was sought by teachers, students and Hispanic advocates who said that the more expensive out-of-state tuition was keeping many children of illegal immigrants from attending college.

Many of the students said they have lived in Kansas most of their lives, had graduated from Kansas high schools and were working on getting citizenship, but that process often took more than a decade.

The bill was approved by the House Higher Education Committee on a voice vote.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Sue Storm, D-Overland Park, said she didn't know how the measure would fare before the full House.

"I'm an incurable optimist. I'm going to look at it positively and say it has as good of a chance of passing as it does of failing," Storm said.

Several committee members voiced opposition to the bill.

In earlier comments, Rep. Everett Johnson, R-Augusta, said he sympathized with the students who testified in support of the bill, but added, "when do we stop, and when do our borders and citizenship mean something?"

Only Johnson and Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, were recorded as voting against the measure.

Storm said getting more students into college would benefit the entire state by improving the workforce.

She argued that the state wouldn't lose any money by granting in-state tuition because more children of undocumented workers would go to college.

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