Support, opposition builds over in-state tuition proposal - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Support, opposition builds over in-state tuition proposal

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – A recently filed bill that would benefit children living here illegally has created a stir across the state.

Democratic Sen. Joyce Elliott has proposed extending in-state tuition to some students who came to the country illegally.

While many locally seem to know little about this bill, those who support it say it would give students a better chance to further their education, while others call the concept unfair.

The staff members at Hispanic Community Services Inc. in Jonesboro are among those who fully support Senate Bill 915.

Gina Gomez, the HCSI executive director, says the proposal would open up opportunities to students like those who have entered the country illegally as children.

"Since we have already invested in those kids," Gomez said, "we need to continue investing in them, and what would be better than investing in education?"

The proposal extends in-state tuition rates to anyone that has attended an Arkansas high school for at least three years and has an Arkansas high school diploma or general education certified in the state.

"It will be a benefit not just for those kids, not just for the Latino community or for the minorities," Gomez said, "but it will be a benefit for the entire state. I think the more educated those kids are, the better future and the brighter future for Arkansas will be."

She says this proposal would also give young people some hope about their futures.

"Sometimes they feel there is no hope just knowing that after you graduate from high school, there are not possibilities for you to enroll at college or a university if you cannot afford it," Gomez explained. "So, it's just trying to make it easier for them to go to the next level and to enroll at school and to give the importance that education has for our community."

Supporters have also claimed that it would treat students who came to the U.S. illegally as children more fairly because many of them currently have to pay out-of-state rates despite having grown up and gotten their education here.

This argument has resonated with the state's largest lobbying organization for businesses. The head of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas has backed the bill and has urged lawmakers to approve it.

Opponents, like Phillip Keiter of Jonesboro, say the proposal seems wrong because it gives an advantage to those living here illegally.

"If there's more money to be given out," Keiter said, "it seems to me that it should be given out to Americans."

The bill is currently pending in the state legislature.

Lawmakers are expected to discuss the proposal Friday, April 5, during a hearing for the Senate Education Committee.

Copyright 2013 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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