Bill could help those undocumented

A state bill would allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition.

by Marjorie Otto

Undocumented students at Minnesota colleges could pay in-state tuition and get financial aid under a bill proposed in the state Legislature this week.

The bill was proposed Monday by Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, who said its introduction has been a long time coming.

 “I’ve been working on this for the last decade,” Pappas said.

Similar bills have been brought before legislators in the past, but Pappas is optimistic that this may be the successful year.

For the first time in 20 years, the DFL party has complete control of the state Capitol.

Pappas’ bill would allow undocumented students who graduate from a Minnesota high school after attending it for at least three years to qualify for in-state tuition at public colleges. The bill also authorizes state schools to give private financial aid to students affected by the law.

Right now, undocumented immigrants have to pay non-resident tuition — “which is not affordable for a lot of students,” Pappas said. They are also ineligible for financial aid.

Students would also have to be working toward legal immigration status to qualify.

Non-resident tuition at the University of Minnesota this year is $8,655 per semester. Minnesota residents get a 30 percent discount, paying $6,030.

Currently, 12 states allow undocumented students who meet certain requirements to pay in-state tuition at public colleges.

Some MnSCU schools, as well as the University’s Morris and Crookston campuses, already charge all students resident tuition.

Pappas said about 10 years ago, a group of students came to her with a problem: Many didn’t find out their parents were undocumented until it came time to go to college — and the students found out what things they couldn’t legally do.

“They were young kids, and they were bright students, ‘A’ students,” Pappas said, “and all of the sudden their dream of going to college was snatched away from them.”

Last week, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly  passed a resolution in support of the federal DREAM Act, which would allow certain undocumented students in the U.S. to get financial aid, among other things.

The group decided to promote this act after one of its members, Daniel Perez, wasn’t able to get a University graduate student job and had trouble getting loans because of his undocumented status.

“That resonated with the assembly, and that led to us supporting it,” said GAPSA Vice President Alfonso Sintjago, a doctoral candidate studying comparative and international development education.

“It’s about everybody,” said GAPSA President Brittany Edwards, a public policy master’s student. “This is a social justice issue.”