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Piece of Mind: Keep In-State Tuition For Undocumented Students

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Austin American-Statesman
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Legislation would disallow undocumented Texas residents from receiving in-state tuition privileges at public universities.

A couple of North Texas freshmen legislators dislike like the idea of allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities.

I believe they are mistaken if they think the state is going to reap a reward by making it difficult for young Texas residents to achieve higher education degrees.

State Reps. Bryan Slaton of Royse City and Jeff Cason of Bedford — both Republicans — have proposed a bill that would allow colleges to determine a student’s residence and decide whether they qualify for in-state tuition. Slaton, you’ll recall, defeated longtime House District 2 state Rep. Dan Flynn in a fight over who could be “more conservative.” Slaton won that battle and is providing ample evidence that he means what he says about pushing a conservative agenda forward in the 2021 Legislature.

I will interject that two other Texas Republican politicians of considerable note — Govs. George W. Bush and Rick Perry — endorsed the idea of allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition. Why? Because both of them recognized the value that college educations bring to the state, even when some of its residents lack the necessary immigration documents.

Moreover, Texas A&M University-Commerce President Mark Rudin is on the side, too, of undocumented residents getting in-state admission privileges. He wrote in a letter to students and faculty:

In light of recent federal actions related to immigration and immigration status, I wish to reiterate that Texas A&M University-Commerce welcomes and supports all students without regard to their immigration status. The university admits students in a manner consistent with our nondiscrimination policy and without regard to a student’s race, color, national origin, religion, citizenship or other protected characteristics.

“Further, as an academic community, our educational mission is enhanced by the robust exchange of ideas that occurs within a diverse and inclusive learning environment, with a diverse student body, faculty and staff. We are dedicated to maintaining a nurturing and respectful learning environment.”

Bush, Perry are right about in-state tuition issue | High Plains Blogger

I don’t know what Gov. Greg Abbott would do with a bill were it to reach his desk. I am wishing he would veto it.

This legislation falls into the “heartless” category of lawmaking. It seeks to target Texas residents who are seeking to improve their circumstance by attending higher education institutions. Given that they do reside in Texas, they have — in my humble estimation — earned the right to attend these schools as Texas residents.

The Texas Tribune reported: “Texans’ tax dollars should not be used to reward and encourage illegal immigration to our state and nation,” Cason said in a statement.

Texas lawmakers want to block in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants | The Texas Tribune

Maybe I am slow on the uptake, but I am having a bit of difficulty understanding how allowing these students to pay in-state tuition constitutes a Texas taxpayer subsidy, or how it encourages “illegal immigration to our state and nation.”

President Biden already has restored the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program for those undocumented immigrants who were brought here by their parents. Many of those DACA recipients are enrolled in Texas public colleges and universities. They might be deemed unable to continue their education if Slaton and Cason’s bill becomes law.

This law deserves the fate that a 2019 effort met. It failed to come out of the House Higher Education Committee. I hope this notion withers and dies, too.

John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.

Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.

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