SCCC has second highest alien student count in Kansas
By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
This week, the Kansas Legislature is debating whether or not to rescind a law that allows illegal aliens to receive in-state tuition at Kansas colleges. On Tuesday, the Kansas House voted to end the current program in Kansas. (See AP report in inset.)
During a recent hearing, both sides shared why or why not they believed the law should be kept or rescinded.
According to data provided by the Kansas Board of Regents, there are 413 students enrolled under the provision for 2010.
Seward County Community College/Area Technical School provided the second highest student total in Kansas.
Johnson County near Kansas City led all schools with 84 students enrolled under the provision. Seward County provided in-state tuition to 68 students under the provision.
In comparison, Dodge City had 17 students and Garden City had 15 who received in-state tuition under the provision.
If the 68 students at Seward County took 16 hours per semester, they received a discount of $60,928 when compared to the out-of-state rate.
That would have been revenue that the college would not have had to raise through other means, including property taxes.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach supported the bill, and at a recent stop in Liberal, explained some of the issues dealing with providing illegal alien students in-state tuition.
“When a person is brought here as a minor, they have no choice,” he said. “But when they turn 18, they are responsible for their own actions. They have the obligation to return to their home country.”
Kobach said that on any given day, there are millions of people trying to get into the United States legally. For those who did not properly wait their turn, it was unfair to not only allow them to cheat the process but to receive benefits for doing so.
“I hear people say, ‘He is a good kid,’” Kobach said. “Try to go to another country and get them to help pay for your tuition. You might be a good kid, but they won’t pay for your college education.”
But the Kansas Board of Regents offered testimony to keep the current law in place.
“This law does not allow undocumented immigrants to attend public postsecondary institutions for free,” Dr. Andy Tompkins, president and CEO of the Regents said in his testimony. He explained that these students do not qualify for any state or federal assistance and have to pay for their education by themselves.
He did not say whether or not scholarships could be used or were being used to help fund illegal immigrants.
Tompkins added that the Regents supported the existing law which allows illegal aliens to receive in-state tuition because it provided more opportunity and that the students would be unable to pay out-of-state tuition.
Several other groups and individuals were against the law and wanted it repealed.
Dennis Hodgins of Legislative Research estimated the annual cost at $1.1 million per school year.
State Representative Caryn Tyson testified that foreign exchange students who legally came to Kansas and U.S. citizens would pay a higher rate than illegal aliens.
Ken Dunwoody of Olathe testified on behalf of Sarah, a young Kansas woman who lost her leg, some teeth and has a permanent scar on her face while fighting in Iraq. She is a junior at K-State, and while going to class, a couple of students were laughing at her. When she confronted them, according to Dunwoody’s testimony, they responded that they were illegal immigrants that moved to Garden City.
“As children, they received free meals at school, free medical care and educated in their native language. Now as adults they still get food stamps, free medical care and pay the same tuition as her,” Dunwoody shared as the response. “They believe Sarah was naive and foolish to have paid so much to end up just like them, or with less than them.”
A supporter of the current law allowing illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition, Angela Ferguson, an immigration attorney, refuted the claim that these students could simply go home.
“On the one hand, some argue that these immigrant students, many of whom remember no home except Kansas, would go ‘back to their home countries,’ and return on student visas,” she said. “The reality, of course, is that they are not foreign students; they were educated right here in Kansas, and their futures are here.”
Bill Reardon, a lobbyist for the Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools, also wanted to see the current law remain.
He said it would be difficult to prepare these students for college if they could not attend.
The Kansas Association of School Boards also sought to preserve the current law and provide in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.
“KASB supports legislation that would allow students who have attended Kansas high schools ... to pay resident tuition rates, regardless of whether or not these students are citizens of the United States,” Associate Executive Director for Advocacy Mark Tallman said.
The bill, HB-2006, is expected to go to the Senate fairly soon. If passed by the Senate, it would have to be sent to Governor Sam Brownback for his signature. Passage of the bill would remove in-state tuition from those who are not legal residents. Students who would not qualify for in-state tuition could still attend regents colleges but at the out-of-state tuition rate. Rep. Carl D. Holmes voted to end the program during Tuesday’s House vote.
Oklahoma passed a similar law prohibiting in-state tuition for illegal aliens in 2007.
Kan. House votes to end immigrant tuition break
TOPEKA (AP) — House members have voted to end a program that allows some illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition to attend Kansas public colleges and universities.
The chamber voted 72-50 on Tuesday to repeal the law, which began in 2004. The bill now goes to the Senate.
Critics of the tuition program argue the state policy violates federal law and is unfair to out-of-state and foreign students at Kansas colleges and universities.
Supporters say the repeal is driven by fear that the tuition break is encouraging illegal immigrants to move to Kansas.
Similar measures have passed the House since adoption of the policy but have failed to find enough votes in the Senate.
The state Board of Regents said 413 students enrolled under the law last fall.