Topeka A Senate committee Wednesday rejected a bill that would repeal a law allowing in-state tuition for some undocumented students.
The Federal and State Affairs panel voted against recommending the passage of House Bill 2006 after hearing emotional testimony from several people who were brought to the United States as children.
They later graduated from Kansas high schools and then attended state institutions of higher education.
Alaide Vilchis, a Kansas University graduate, was one of those. After the vote, she said she was happy the committee considered the testimony of those who benefited from the law.
"I'm glad that other undocumented students will have an opportunity to be a Jayhawk," she said.
Vilchis said opponents of the repeal bill will have to remain vigilant because the measure could re-emerge as an amendment to another bill at some point during the legislative session.
Under current Kansas law, students are considered Kansas residents eligible for the lower in-state tuition if they graduated from a Kansas high school or received a GED, have lived in the state for three years and pledge to become citizens.
House Bill 2006 would repeal that law.
The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition is significant. A first-time freshman who entered KU last fall paid $3,938 per semester for tuition if they were considered Kansas residents. A nonresident paid $10,340.
The repeal bill was passed last month in the House.
Kansas Board of Regents said 413 students enrolled under the law last fall at state universities, community colleges and technical colleges.
Supporters of the current law say it provides an opportunity for students who aren’t citizens but whose parents brought them as children to Kansas. But the law’s opponents say it provides an incentive for illegal immigrants. There have been many attempts to repeal the law since it was first passed in 2004.
While the repeal bill is backed mostly by Republicans in the Legislature, Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, has signaled he is not interested in repealing the current law.
Earlier Wednesday, Kansas students and graduates released a video in which they spoke in favor of the current law, saying it is just and fair.
"Access to education is a basic human right," Kansas University student Ben Gerrard said on the video.
The students have also gathered more than 250 signatures on an online petition to defeat HB 2006.