Kobach challenging in-state tuition rates for undocumented students

Former Kansas Republican Party chairman Kris Kobach on Tuesday filed to run for his party's nomination for Kansas secretary of state.

Students enrolled in fall 2010 under provisions of a Kansas law extending in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria.

Public universities

Emporia State University — 2

Fort Hays State University — 25

Kansas University (including KU Medical Center) — 14

Kansas State University — 15

Pittsburg State University — 1

Washburn University — 1

Wichita State University — 4

Public university subtotal: 62

Community colleges

Allen County — 0

Barton County — 8

Butler County — 63

Cloud County — 0

Coffeyville — 0

Colby — 0

Cowley County — 0

Dodge City — 17

Fort Scott — 2

Garden City — 15

Highland — 0

Hutchinson — 8

Independence — 2

Johnson County — 84

Kansas City, Kan. — 55

Labette — 0

Neosho County — 0

Pratt — 1

Seward County — 68

Community College subtotal: 323

Technical institutions

Flint Hills Technical College — 10

Manhattan Area Technical College — 0

North Central Kansas Technical College — 0

Northwest Kansas Technical College — 0

Salina Area Technical College — 4

Wichita Area Technical College — 14

Technical Institution subtotal: 28

Grand Total: 413

Kansas Secretary of State-elect Kris Kobach is challenging a California law that provides in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants who qualify under a certain set of rules and regulations.

Though the California Supreme Court upheld the law this week, Kobach told the San Francisco Chronicle he would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and said California loses millions of dollars each year because the state doesn’t require undocumented students to pay the out-of-state rate. He called the ruling “very weak.”

Kansas is one of 10 states with such laws that could be affected by the outcome of the case. In all, 413 such students are enrolled this fall at the state’s public universities, community colleges and technical institutions. Kansas University and KU Medical Center have 14 students who receive in-state tuition under the law.

The law, which passed in 2004, allows undocumented immigrants to receive in-state tuition if they:

• Have attended a Kansas high school for three or more years.

• Have graduated from a Kansas high school or obtained a GED certificate in Kansas.

• Have filed an affidavit stating the student — or the student’s parents — has filed an application to legalize the student’s immigration status or for citizenship or will do so as soon as the person is eligible to do so.

The number of students benefiting from the law has risen since 2005, when 221 students were enrolled under the law’s provisions.

Gary Sherrer, chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents, said that it was in the best interest of the state for young people — who came to the state when they were very young — to have access to a good education.

He said it would be “nonsense” to penalize these students for a decision they had no control over.

“I personally find it repugnant that these young men and women who have proven themselves are being batted around for purely political motives,” Sherrer said.

More than three-fourths of the students who benefit from the law are enrolled in community colleges. Only 62 are at the state’s public universities.

Many of those students are caught in the middle and can’t apply for citizenship yet when they apply for college, Sherrer said. When these students do become citizens, Sherrer said, he wants them to have as much education as possible so they can contribute to the state.

Kobach, who is involved in other out-of-state lawsuits involving illegal immigration, also helped draft an Arizona anti-immigration law that gained national attention earlier this year.

He did not respond to calls or e-mail seeking comment for this story.

Jack Martin, a KU spokesman, deferred questions to the regents, who set legislative proposals for the state’s higher education system.

“It’s a state law, so we’re following state law,” Martin said. “It’s not something that’s on our radar as far as changing it.”

At KU, Kansas residents pay $7,875 in tuition for an average yearly course load, while nonresidents pay $20,680.50.