Bill would get Minnesota immigrants in-state tuition

A senator said a House committee will consider the issue Wednesday.

Ryan Dionne

The Senate Higher Education Budget Division analyzed and adopted an act Thursday allowing immigrants to pay in-state tuition.

If enacted, the bill would get immigrants in-state tuition if they graduated from a Minnesota high school or attended one for more than two years.

Committee chairwoman and co-author of the bill Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, said it will help more immigrants get college educations.

Ann Schuetz, an education coordinator for the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, said between 300 and 500 undocumented immigrant students graduate from state high schools annually.

Some student immigrants who have lived in Minnesota since they were children often think of themselves as Americans, she said.

Schuetz said that without citizenship, immigrants are forced to pay out-of-state tuition to attend college. Out-of-state tuition is too expensive for many of the families to handle, she said.

“Since (student immigrants) have to pay triple the price and they don’t get aid,” Schuetz said, “it pretty much rules out going to college.”

To have legal status, Schuetz said, it often takes many years.

To begin the natural-ization process, immigrants must have an employer or family members who are legal residents sponsor them, she said.

But while jobs such as doctors, lawyers and researchers are often the occupations that allow sponsorships, she said, many of those also require a good education.

University senior Catalina Restrepo said she has one immigrant friend who could not attend the University because it was too expensive.

“This (bill) is something that needs to happen,” Restrepo said.

“The whole paying-for-college thing is expensive to begin with. It’s just really frustrating.”

Another issue keeping immigrants from college is that applications are not designed to get undocumented students admitted, Pappas said.

Pappas said the House Higher Education Committee will consider the issue Wednesday.