In 2011, the General Assembly passed what is now referred to as House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1402, which prohibited illegal residents from receiving in-state tuition at our public universities. The following semester, a number of students had their tuition raised significantly - sometimes as much as three times what they had been paying previously. This forced hundreds of students to drop out of college because they could no longer afford the tuition.
In my opinion, this bill unfairly changed the rules on these students in the middle of the game. They were on their way to a successful and promising future, and we pulled the rug out from under them.
I voted for HEA 1402 and regret having doing so. As a legislator, I was focused on the matter of the policy, and not the people it would affect. It is the one vote I would take back if I were able.
Many of these kids were brought here as young children and have lived in Indiana their entire lives. They do not know that they are here illegally until they go to apply for college or for a driver’s license. I firmly stand behind the opinion that these children didn’t break the law; their parents did.
In our frustration with the Federal government’s inability to resolve our immigration problem, we are taking it out on the kids. They did not break the law, their parents did. They are paying for the sins of their fathers.
This year, I am a sponsor for Senate Bill (SB) 207, a bill that I believe would fix the mistakes and restore the trust between legislators and students that were affected in 2011. SB 207 grandfathers those students who were already enrolled in the state’s public colleges in 2011 to continue receiving in-state tuition. It does not extend eligibility forward to new students. This will affect about 200 hundred students.
According to the National Immigration Law Center, twelve states currently have laws permitting certain undocumented students who have attended and graduated from their primary and secondary schools to pay the same tuition as their classmates at public institutions of higher education. Most parties believe that this will affect around 200 students.
Ensuring these kids get an education will help them to become self-reliant, rather than a ‘burden’ on society. If we limit their opportunities now I believe that when the federal government reaches some solution on this issue in the future, the state will be left trying to figure out what to do with a large population of uneducated citizens who will likely be eligible for welfare programs.
If you are not aware, the legislative session is live-streamed each day on a state government website. When presenting SB 207 on the House floor last week, I wanted to speak to the Hispanic students that were watching. I told them I knew that they felt disheartened; that sometimes the things that we want most are the most difficult to get. Sometimes it seems impossible, but we have to keep our faith because God knows our path.
I know one day that these students will be our doctors, our educators, our lawyers, our business leaders – it is in their future. I have met these students and have heard their dreams. I know with all my heart that this dream of a successful future will be theirs one day.
It is up to us to live up to our commitments that we have made to these students for in-state tuition. Unfortunately, the rules were changed and trust was lost. There is a saying that I often refer to during my time at the Statehouse: “you’re only good as your word”. I sponsored SB 207 because I believe that these students are our future and we must keep our word as a state. Indiana did that when they passed Senate Bill 207.
It’s an honor to represent our community at the Statehouse, and I look forward to helping Hoosier families both now, and in the future. If you would like to watch the floor speech I gave, please visit:http://bit.ly/XH5r6P, or feel free to contact me atH22@in.gov, or by calling 317-232-9619.