Democrats in Iowa Senate push for in-state tuition for DREAMers


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Democrats in the Iowa Senate would like to further recent efforts for DREAMers by making them legally eligible for in-state tuition at public universities.

“We have made a major investment in these youngsters in our K-12 system, and it’s extraordinarily shortsighted economically speaking to not provide a path for everyone one of these kids to go to college,” said Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, one of 11 cosponsors of the bill. “… Those kids see themselves as Iowans and want to be here as Iowans.”

The proposed bill would allow students who attend an accredited school in Iowa, and graduate from high school or attain an equivalent diploma, an opportunity for in-state tuition. It would also require interested students to sign an affidavit stating they would apply for citizenship at the earliest possible date.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Red Oak, the ranking member of the Senate Education Committee, said she is concerned about “unintended consequences” but agrees it’s not the children’s fault for their situation.

“In essence, we are rewarding the family for bad behavior,” she said. “There are lots of wonderful students who come from Nebraska, Missouri [and elsewhere], and they’re not going to get in-state tuition.”

Bolkcom said one of his main motivations for the bill is his belief that Iowa suffers from workforce and skill shortage in “all areas” including manufacturing, engineering, and information technology. He pointed to population growth among young Latinos as a possible source to address this gap.

“There are not enough workers, and the ones we have don’t have the skills we need,” he said “The cost is to the state’s economy if the employers can’t find employees, and then they will go to places where they can."

Other states have passed similar proposals to the current bill.

Brenda Bautsch, a senior policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures, said 12 states have passed similar laws to the one Iowa is considering. Indiana is one of six states that passed a law barring such students from receiving in-state tuition.

However, Bautsch said there don’t appear to be any themes or trends in states that consider the expansion.

Regent President Craig Lang and President Pro Tem Bruce Rastetter are both listed as “undecided” lobbyists on the bill, according to an online listing. One regent said he personally would support the bill.

“I am personally interested in seeing economic opportunities expand,” Regent Bob Downer said.

Downer said the regents could potentially discuss the proposal during their meeting today, and he does not believe the bill takes advantage of taxpayers. Downer said he's only heard of five students who would qualify for the proposal.

The bill — if passed — would go into effect Jan. 1, 2014. It is currently in the Senate Education Committee.

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