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The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

January 16, 2014 at 9:50 AM

Patty Murray wants $750M tuition aid for undocumented, poor students

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Patty Murray is proposing to earmark $750 million over 10 years to entice all states to make college more affordable for tens of thousands of poor, including undocumented, high school graduates each year.

The Washington Democrat on Thursday introduced a bill that would financially reward Washington and 18 other states that already offer in-state tuition or financial aid to students regardless of immigration status. It also would offer incentives for the remaining 31 states to drop legal status as a condition for lower tuition or student aid.

The so-called IN-STATE for Dreamers Act of 2014 would be paid for with higher fees on F-1 student visa fees collected from international students who study in the United States.

Washington state has offered in-state tuition for undocumented students, with certain conditions, since 2003. But  students who came to the United States illegally are not eligible for the State Need Grant, which helps poorest students afford undergraduate education.

On Monday, the Democratically-controlled Washington House passed the Washington DREAM Act to allow such students to qualify for financial aid. But Republicans who control the state Senate oppose the bill, in part because the state is already turning away 30,000 student for lack of grant money. Murray’s bill would bolster that fund.

“Undocumented students are no different than their classmates. They live in the same towns, attend the same schools, and share the same dreams — and they deserve an equal chance to go to college and start successful careers in this country,” Murray said in a statement.

A year of in-state tuition, room and board and other expenses at the University of Washington in Seattle runs nearly $20,000 for students who live at home; costs for those living on their own total more than $27,000.

The federal bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., among others. The legislation is backed by UW, Washington State University, AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers and immigrants’ and children’s advocacy groups.

Comments | More in Congress, Education | Topics: college tuition, immigration, patty murray

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