Bill to repeal in-state tuition for undocumented Kansans dies in House committee

Eric Martinez, government relations director for the University of Kansas Student Senate, testifies before a House committee opposing a bill to repeal a law that allows certain undocumented immigrants in Kansas to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities.

? A Kansas House committee took no action Monday on a bill that would have repealed a 2004 law allowing certain undocumented residents living in Kansas to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities.

That effectively killed the bill for this session, although the issue of tuition rates for undocumented residents could reappear in another form later in the session.

At the end of the second day of testimony on the bill, Rep. Kevin Jones, R-Wellsville, who chairs the House Higher Education Budget Committee, said he would not put it up for a vote on whether to send it to the full House.

Because Monday was the deadline for most House committees to act on House bills, and Senate committees to act on Senate bills, that decision effectively killed the legislation.

On Monday, only one person spoke in favor of the bill, Renee Slinkard, who described herself as a “concerned citizen” but did not identify where she was from.

“The fact that illegal aliens receive a discount for their children attending postsecondary schools in Kansas is a crime in itself,” she told the committee.

Under current law, anyone who is a resident of Kansas for three years or more and graduates from an accredited Kansas high school is eligible to pay in-state rates at state colleges and universities, regardless of their citizenship status. Noncitizens, however, must sign an affidavit saying they are seeking to legalize their status.

During the first day of hearings on Friday, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is a Republican candidate for governor in 2018, spoke as the only proponent of the bill.

Several people who were not able to attend Friday’s hearing came Monday to testify in opposition to the bill.

Among them was Eric Martinez, government relations director for the Student Senate at the University of Kansas.

“The University of Kansas has an undocumented community, and the universities provide little institutional support,” he said. “At the moment, these students do not qualify for any federal grants.

“Many of these students have been paying out of pocket,” he said. “Many of these parents are helping these students pay out of pocket. Once we start charging them two or three times as much for their education, many of these students are going to have to go back to community colleges, or even back into the shadows.”

According to information from the Kansas Board of Regents, during the fall 2017 semester there were 670 undocumented students in the Kansas higher education system taking advantage of the program.

Of those, 495 were attending community colleges, 142 were attending public universities, and 33 were attending technical colleges.

Johnson County Community College had the largest number of undocumented students, with 192, according to Board of Regents figures. Wichita State University led among the four-year institutions with 43. KU had fewer than 10.

The bill called for requiring those students to pay nonresident rates in order to attend college, with the additional revenue being earmarked to offset the tuition and fees that are waived for students who are in the state foster care system at age 18.

Based on current enrollment figures, Regents officials estimated that would amount to nearly $2.3 million a year being applied to offset tuition and fee waivers for foster children. But they also said it would be impossible to estimate how many of the undocumented students currently enrolled would continue their education if they had to pay the full nonresident rates.