By BEN WASSERSTEIN
(CNS) – A bill to make immigrants eligible for in-state tuition even if they are not U.S. citizens passed the Senate in a 21-18 party-line vote and will heard soon by the House Education Committee.
The bill, SB 1387, was co-patroned by Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, and Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Chesterfield. The bill seeks to grant Virginia immigrants eligibility for in-state tuition if they have paid two years of state taxes and completed two years at a Virginia high school.
U.S. citizenship is not required for eligibility, according to the bill.
The bill was additionally sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, and Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Henrico.
Boysko and Hashmi worked closely with Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration, Attorney General Mark Herring, a number of immigrant advocacy groups and Virginia colleges and universities, Boysko said.
“This provides opportunity and equity for all who seek higher education,” Boysko said. “Adding financial assistance eligibility reflects the reality that tuition is unaffordable for many students – this bill puts our students on an even playing field.”
Boysko and Hashmi have worked together on expanding in-state tuition since 2020, Boysko said.
Education is Boysko’s top priority “because it’s the tool that makes it possible for people to move into self-sufficiency and success,” she said.
“I watched my mother struggle as a single mom when I was young until she was able to go back to school to get her degree in nursing,” Boysko said. “Education is also essential for Virginia’s growing economy.”
Hashmi, an educator for two decades, saw many students unable to fulfill “their academic dreams” because of tuition.
“I saw how so many students were struggling with trying to afford the cost of college,” Hashmi said. “Our state support for our colleges and universities has really begun to be implemented over the last 12 years or so. And so the burden of paying for higher education has really fallen on the backs of middle class families and their and their children. And it’s made higher education all of us out of reach for many of our lower class families.”
Immigrant advocacy groups, such as The Dream Project, were stakeholders in the bill.
“For too long undocumented students in Virginia have been tossed aside by our education system when they reach their senior year,” Lizette Arias, executive director of The Dream Project, said. “Many seniors now are able to, for the first time in history, make a plan for college regardless of their immigration status. Dreams are coming true!”
The bill will be voted on in the House within the next few days, Hashmi said. It has a delayed effective date of August 1, 2022.