KASB opposes bill denying in-state tuition to undocumented students

KASB will testify Monday against a bill that would deny in-state tuition to undocumented Kansas students. 

HB 2643 was introduced by Rep. Kevin Jones, R-Wellington, who said he introduced the measure at the request of a constituent. Jones’ southeast Kansas legislative district has a high rate of foster care placements; HB 2643 would also increase college tuition assistance for children in foster care.   

Bills of this type are normally controversial in the Kansas Legislature; Jones’ decision to schedule a hearing on HB 2643 last Thursday with little notice drew sharp criticism from opponents, which included the ACLU-Kansas, the Kansas Catholic Bishops conference, Rep. Ponka-We Victors, Rep. John Alcala and several Kansas college students. The hearing continues today at 3:30 p.m. in the House Higher Education Budget Committee in Room 548-S of the Kansas Statehouse. That is a change from the committee’s usual hearing room. 

KASB policy supports legislation that would allow students who have attended Kansas high schools for a reasonable period of time and successfully completed a high school program and other requirements for college admission to pay resident tuition rates, regardless of whether these students are citizens of the United States.  

The sole proponent of the bill on Thursday was Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has been active in efforts against undocumented immigrants across the country. Kobach said he was testifying in his capacity as a private attorney and self-styled constitutional law expert.   

Kobach claimed Kansas and more than a dozen other states violate federal law by offering in-state tuition status to undocumented students. The Kansas law was enacted in 2004 and has withstood several legal challenges, including one brought by Kobach.   

KASB will testify that the Kansas State Board of Education’s vision for the success of all Kansas students includes increasing the high school graduation rate and promoting postsecondary success, whether in college or careers. If undocumented students see no reason to stay in school to prepare for jobs or higher education, it will be more difficult to keep them engaged and in school. 

“Kansas needs more, not fewer, workers with the higher-level skills that can be earned through attendance at two-year or four-year state colleges and universities,” KASB’s written testimony says. “It makes no economic or moral sense to erect higher barriers to postsecondary success to the undocumented children who would lose benefits on the enactment of HB 2643.” 

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