Friday, February 05, 2016
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MIRA advocates for the rights and opportunities of immigrants and refugees. In partnership with its members, MIRA advances this mission through policy analysis and advocacy, institutional organizing, training and leadership development, and strategic communications.

Send them to study

DetourIt is that time of year when high school seniors eagerly await their college acceptance letters.  For many, of course, acceptance does not guarantee access. Undocumented students must still pay 2-3 times more tuition than other students to attend public colleges in our state, regardless of their contributions to their communities, number of years in the U.S., or the absence of any choice in whether to immigrate.  Because they are also ineligible for public financial aid, college is therefore a financial impossibility for many undocumented students. The Massachusetts legislature, for the fourth time in the last decade, has deferred these students the equal access to higher education they deserve. 

Last summer, students, educators, business leaders and other supporters of higher education equality packed a
State House hearing room to testify in favor of An Act regarding higher education opportunities for high school graduates. This bill would remedy our state's current discriminatory policy by allowing all students to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges in Massachusetts provided they attend high school for at least three years in our state and graduate or obtain a GED. The bill would also generate $7.4 million per year once fully implemented, according to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Association, without crowding classrooms.

Last week, An Act regarding higher education opportunities for high school graduates was "sent to study" by the Joint Committee on Higher Education, effectively halting progress for the remainder of this year.  While it was convenient for politicians to not take up a reasonable and pragmatic bill because of yet another election season, many students are left again with the burden of sending themselves to study with unrealistic costs, or not pursue college at all.

By kicking the can down the road, the Legislature is not only failing these students, but also wasting talent of a population most likely tostay, contribute to the Commonwealth. Delaying the bill also lacks foresight in our goals for a strong economic recovery, especially as our entrepreneurs, world-class companies and research institutions are hungry for a readied workforce in this globalized knowledge-based economy. Having already lost our first-mover advantage, thirteen states have adopted laws and policies of higher education equality, including our neighbors New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. But this momentum also gives us hope, especially as the movement for national immigration reform continues.

MIRA expresses our deepest gratitude to the lead sponsors of this bill, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, Representative Denise Provost and Representative Alice Wolf, who stood as courageous champions for this bill, as well as the co-sponsoring legislators of this bill and all students, advocates and allies that stood up for higher education equality this session. It will be a bittersweet summer for some of our high school graduates, but it doesn't have to be this way for those that follow the class of 2012.


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