Elliott files bill to close tuition gap for undocumented students | Arkansas Blog

Elliott files bill to close tuition gap for undocumented students

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As promised, Sen. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock) has filed a bill that would allow undocumented students — many of whom, as David Koon described in a recent cover story, were brought here as small children and know no other country — an opportunity to receive in-state tuition rates at state colleges. Currently, they're forced to pay much higher out of state rates, a situation that puts extreme financial pressure on the students and their families.

Elliott's bill would allow anyone who attends high school in Arkansas for at least three years and graduates from an Arkansas high school or receives a GED to receive in-state tuition rates at state colleges. An undocumented student would have to file an affidavit with her state college of choice stating that she intends to work towards becoming legal.

Elliott made the case for the bill to David Koon last month:

"What law do we have in place that specifically punishes kids for the actions of their parents?" she said. "It might come about as a byproduct of something parents have done — parents in prison, for example. But there is not a policy in place that says if your parents go to prison, you won't be allowed to go to school. But in this case, we are holding children accountable by an actual policy for the actions of their parents. And that's unfair."

Co-sponsors include Sen. Johnny Key (R-Mountain Home), Rep. Les Carnine (R-Rogers), Rep. Greg Leding (D-Fayetteville) and Rep. Sheilla Lampkin (D-Monticello). With Republicans Key and Carnine aboard, it's likely got a decent shot at passing.

In an email, Lampkin wrote David Koon explaining why she's supporting the bill.

I do plan to support the DREAM Act because I believe all have the right to an education. As I see it, these students are asking for no scholarships or special privileges other than an opportunity to educate themselves and be a part of a better educated, trained work force and contributor to our society.

I believe in all our children and these are ours too. I have been contacted by youngsters and adults alike who support this and I believe it is the right thing to do.

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