Earlier today, the College Board boldly dipped its toe into the contentious waters of the immigration debate by releasing a report espousing the need for sweeping new federal laws that would allow undocumented immigrants access to in-state tuition and a path to legal residency.
The issue has been around for years, (here's our take on it) but this is the first time the august organization, a consortium of 5,400 colleges and universities that administers the SAT test, has publicly entered this hot-button arena.
The vast majority of states do not allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state college tuition, but Texas is not one of them. In fact, Texas (not always known for its tolerant and favorable treatment of illegal immigrants) became the first state in the country to allow its undocumented high school graduates to pay the lower in-state rate. The state legislature passed a law in 2001 allowing anyone who has: lived in Texas for three years prior to graduating a state high school or earning a GED, lived here for a year before enrolling in college, and signs an affidavit that he will seek residency as soon as he is eligible, to qualify for in-state tuition. Nine other states have adopted similar laws.
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The next step would be to clear a path for these undocumented college students to become legal residents. For, in Texas, while an undocumented student may attend college, he still cannot get a job and put his education to good use without a social security number.
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, also called the DREAM Act, has been batted around the U.S. Congress for years. While it does not address the issue of in-state tuition - that will always be up to the individual states - it would allow undocumented immigrants who entered the country before the age of 16 and have lived here for at least five years to earn permanent residency by either serving two years in the military or completing at least two years of college.
The bill made it to the U.S. Senate floor in 2007, and though it received a majority of votes, the tally was still eight votes short of the 60 it needed to survive a filibuster. Texas Sen. John Cornyn voted against it, while Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison was a leading proponent who worked to drum up right-wing support. Many conservatives see the bill as essentially an amnesty plan disguised as an education initiative that would open the floodgates to more illegal immigration.
But it seems like the undocumented students have found an ally in the usually non-political College Board.