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In-state rate debate.

MIAMI DADE COLLEGE (FLA.) PERFECTLY ILLUSTRATES THE TENSIONS between undocumented immigrants and tuition. The community college serves more than 160,000 students in a city replete with immigrants. Its motto is "opportunity changes everything."

Yet like schools in many states, MDC charges all undocumented immigrants out-of-state tuition due to state and federal law. That means $219.15 per credit compared with $64.05 at the in-state level. More than 300 students at MDC are undocumented immigrants, says Norma Martin Goonen, MDC's provost for education--and an untold number drop out or choose not to enroll because the tuition is too high for them.

The tipping point for the issue of in-state tuition and undocumented immigrants may just arrive this year. A number of states are considering new legislation both for and against the idea of giving undocumented immigrants in-state rates. A court case in California also is challenging that state's policy of granting in-state tuition rates to such students. "I'm starting to see it crop up," says Ann Morse, director of the Immigrant Policy Project at the National Conference of State Legislatures. "It's going to be a big year."

According to data from the NCSL, since 2001 nine states--California, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Washington--have enacted legislation to allow unauthorized immigrants to receive in-state tuition if they meet certain requirements. Massachusetts defeated a bill in the first weeks of 2006. Florida's next at bat.

Legislators in Arizona and Georgia are moving to limit the scope of immigrant rights. Last year, Arizona passed legislation that would bar in-state rates for undocumented immigrants but it was vetoed by Gov. Janet Napolitano. In Georgia, Republican Sen. Chip Rogers recently filed a proposal with similar limits. "if a benefit requires Georgia residency, you must have proof that you're a legal resident," Rogers told the Associated Press. "That applies to somebody from Alabama or Guatemala."

The imbalance could be settled by federal legislation or an eventual Supreme Court case. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators gave new life to the DREAM Act late last year; the federal legislation would repeal part of the overarching 1996 federal immigration law to grant conditional legal status to residents who were under the age of 16 when they entered the country. To DREAM Act supporter Antonio Flores, president of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, the legislation makes perfect sense: "It would behoove our society to have highly educated people."
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Title Annotation:BEHIND the NEWS
Author:Fliegler, Caryn Meyers
Publication:University Business
Date:Feb 1, 2006
Words:407
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