Topeka — A new Kansas law allowing certain noncitizen immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities has failed to produce the surge of enrollment that some had predicted.
The Kansas Board of Regents said only 30 documented and undocumented immigrants enrolled this fall under provisions of the law, which cleared the Legislature in May and was backed by the Regents and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
Of the 30 students, 22 enrolled in community colleges, where tuition is generally lower than at state universities.
"This law is new to Kansas, and we didn't know what to expect," said Kip Peterson, a Regents spokesman. "Looking at the numbers now, there are 30 students in Kansas pursuing higher education that otherwise might not have had the opportunity."
The law grants in-state tuition, which is less expensive than tuition for out-of-state students, to immigrants who attended a Kansas high school for three years and obtained either a diploma or Kansas-issued General Educational Development diploma. The students must sign an affidavit saying they plan to apply or are currently applying for U.S. citizenship.
Opponents of the measure include a Washington, D.C.-based group called the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
The group filed suit in July alleging the policy violates federal law and the U.S. Constitution and rewards people in the United States illegally.
Kris Kobach of Overland Park, the Republican nominee against Democratic Rep. Dennis Moore in Kansas' 3rd Congressional District, filed the lawsuit for the group.
"It doesn't matter what the number is," said Kobach. "It's still a violation of federal law for Kansas to do this."
The low number of students taking advantage of the law came as no surprise to Melinda Lewis, director of policy advocacy and research for El Centro in Kansas City, Kan.
"Even in-state tuition at our four-year schools is going to be out of reach for a lot of immigrant families," she said.