Topeka The House gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that would allow children of undocumented immigrants to attend state postsecondary schools at in-state prices.
The measure was endorsed 78-42. A final vote is needed before the bill would be considered by the Senate.
The legislation was sought by Hispanic students, high school teachers and immigration advocates, who said the more expensive out-of-state tuition was keeping many children of illegal immigrants from attending college.
The bill says a person must have attended a Kansas high school for at least three years and graduated or received a GED before being eligible for in-state tuition, generally about one-third the cost of out-of-state tuition.
In committee, several students said although they were born in Mexico, they came to Kansas as infants with their parents, have lived in the state since then and were educated in the public school system. But once they were accepted to a state college, they were charged out-of-state tuition because their parents weren't legal residents.
Rep. Ward Loyd, R-Garden City, supported the bill. He said reducing barriers to the children of immigrants to get a college degree was "the most important investment we can make."
Those students, he said, "will serve as role models and cause a revolution in the desire of education."
Several lawmakers tried to send the bill to the House Federal and State Affairs Committee because they said the dependents of U.S. military personnel must pay out-of-state tuition. But supporters of the bill said Kansas law allowed military dependents the in-state rates.
"This is just a way to kill the idea," Rep. Deena Horst, R-Salina, said of attempts to send the bill back to committee. The move to send it back to committee failed, 35-78.