BOSTON (WWLP)—Lawmakers are considering a bill to offer in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants—an expense that is otherwise unaffordable for many.
Both lawmakers and residents shared stories of growing up in immigrant families in the U.S., asking the state to approve a bill to make college more affordable for immigrants. Those who came to testify unanimously showed support for the bill at the Higher Education Committee’s public hearing Thursday.
This comes at a time when lawmakers are trying to lessen the workforce skills gap.
“Employers come to Massachusetts because of our talented workforce and our educated workforce, but we don’t have enough people to meet the demand that’s out there,” said State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, (D) Boston.
If passed, the bill would allow undocumented students to receive in-state tuition rates and state-funded financial aid at Massachusetts state colleges and universities. Students would only be able to get lower rates if they attended a Massachusetts high school for three or more years.
Critics question if the proposal would exclude students who are in the country legally from getting into college. But lawmakers told 22News the bill only deals with tuition, students must gain entrance before receiving the reduced rate.
“If you’re not happy, why aren’t you happy? It can’t be because of that child who’s doing well in high school that happens to be an undocumented that we want to pay the in-state tuition rate,” said State Senator Linda Forry, (D) Dorchester.
Lawmakers estimate the proposal would expand access to higher education to more than 600 undocumented high school students in Massachusetts.
Nearly 20 other states have passed similar legislation, including New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.