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Undocumented college students express concern about tuition bill in the Oklahoma House of Representatives

by Silas Allen Published: March 20, 2013

Students now eligible

Under current law, undocumented students may be offered in-state tuition if they graduated from high school in the state and lived here with a parent or legal guardian for at least two years before graduation. Undocumented students must file an affidavit with the college or university saying they plan to apply for legal status as soon as they're eligible to do so.

State higher education Chancellor Glen Johnson said the bill, in its current form, would adversely affect undocumented college students, possibly including students who are enrolled now.

The bill doesn't provide a mechanism for allowing students who are in school now to continue paying in-state tuition.

A provision in the bill says the measure wouldn't affect “eligibility for other in-state higher education benefits,” but that doesn't offer any specific instructions to the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education on how to implement the law.

“At best, that's probably unclear,” he said.

Author wants to help

Originally, the bill sought to allow students who graduated from Oklahoma high schools and then left the state to return to Oklahoma and qualify for in-state tuition.

The bill was amended in the Senate Appropriations Committee to include language related to undocumented students.

Rep. Emily Virgin, the bill's House author, said she understands those students' concerns. In its current form, the bill could cause confusion about who qualifies for in-state tuition, she said.

Virgin said she's working with Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education staff to find out how the agency would apply the bill if it passed, and said she is “more than willing” to amend the bill or let it lie dormant until the next legislative session.

“There is no one in the state Legislature more committed to helping undocumented students than myself,” Virgin said. “I can assure the students I will not let anything pass out of the House that could possibly hurt their educational opportunities.”

by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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