INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers are discussing whether to change a 2011 law that prohibits students living in the U.S. illegally from paying in-state tuition at public universities.
Such students have access to free public elementary and secondary education, but Indiana is one of three states that prohibit them from receiving in-state tuition at public colleges and universities.
“I think it’d be a gross mistake at this point not to make some changes,” said Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero.
Immigration attorney Angela Adams said federal law also prohibits publicly-funded institutions from giving students living in the U.S. illegally scholarships or financial aid.
“A growing uneducated workforce results in a significant cost for the state,” Adams said. “It is in the best interest of everyone to keep increase access to higher education to all.”
More than 20 states allow students living in the U.S. illegally to receive in-state tuition, Adams said. The requirement for becoming eligible for in-state tuition is graduating from public high school, rather than residency, in some states.
“Students should not be deprived of a college education because of their parents’ choices,” Adams said.
Victoria Hicks came to the U.S. when she was 11 in 2000. After graduating from high school, she began attending Indiana University in Bloomington. But in the middle of her studies, the state passed the law which barred her from receiving in-state tuition.
Hicks couldn’t afford to pay out-of-state tuition — which is typically triple the in-state rate — and had to drop out of college.
“It was the darkest time in my entire life,” she said.
The state passed a law in 2013 that allowed students who started college prior to the 2011 law to finish school at the in-state tuition rate.
Hicks is now finishing up her last year at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law. She hopes to work as a prosecutor.
“To deny someone the pursuit of higher learning, to me, is not fair,” said Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Merrillville. “I hope we can get that taken care of next session.”
Republican Rep. Jack Jordan of Bremen said lawmakers need to better understand federal laws before making changes.
Lawmakers will make recommendations on the issue for the upcoming legislative session in two months.