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Favorable Votes On Governor's Proposed Reorganization of Higher Ed; In-State Tuition for Illegal Immigrants

Higher education legislators vote bills out of committee

Kathleen Megan

March 18, 2011

A bill to allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition rather than the costlier out-of-state rate touched off impassioned discussion Thursday among the General Assembly's higher education committee as the legislators voted the bill out of committee 11 to 8.

The committee also voted favorably on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposed overhaul of higher education and on a bill proposed by state Rep. Roberta Willis, D-Salisbury, to reorganize management of the state university system only, which is at odds with the governor's goals.

The committee's vote to allow undocumented students who have graduated from Connecticut high schools to attend state universities and colleges at in-state prices went largely along party lines, with most Democrats in support and most Republicans opposed.

State Rep. Daniel Rovero, D-Putnam, one of two Democrats who voted no, said it was as tough a decision as he's had to make in his 40 years in politics. He was so bothered by it, he said, he had trouble sleeping.

"I feel very, very sorry for the young adults who came here this week," Rovero said of the undocumented students who testified at a hearing Tuesday. But, he said he worried that a legal state resident's son or daughter with a "B plus" average might get turned down by a university in favor of an undocumented student.

"I could not in all honesty deny someone in my district a college education," Rovero said. "I'm doing what I think is the right thing in my heart."

State Rep.Timothy B. LeGeyt, R-Canton, said that although the bill calls for "access to post-secondary education," it isn't about access no one is prevented from applying to or attending these schools but about affordability. Out-of-state tuition at one community college is $10,178, compared with $3,406 for in-state students.

"From my point of view, the issue is simply making it easier for someone to financially afford getting a post-secondary education," said LeGeyt, who voted no.

State Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, co-chairwoman of the higher education committee, countered that "access and cost are inextricably linked. If you can't afford it, it's not accessible to you."

State Sen. Gary D. LeBeau, D-West Hartford, said it's wrong to deny educational opportunities to talented young people who grow up in Connecticut. "We can't afford to throw away this talent."

Others who opposed the bill argued that it could create legal problems for the state and cost the state money.

But Bye said that research has shown that every state that allows illegal immigrants to go to college at in-state rates sees tuition revenues increase.

The vote on the governor's reorganization was 14-4, with four Republicans opposing it. Willis, a Democrat, said she doesn't support the bill, but she did vote for it.

Malloy's bill calls for consolidating the management of the state university system with the community college system.

Willis's bill, which calls for an overhaul of the management of the state university system, would streamline the central office and make the system more de-centralized, with a board of trustees for each of the four state universities.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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