More illegal immigrants pay in-state tuition rates

DALLAS, TX The figures from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board show about 1 percent of all Texas college students, in the fall semester, benefited from a 2001 law granting such in-state tuition.

The law says students who are not U.S. citizens and want to seek the assistance must have attended school in the state for at least three years before they graduate from a Texas high school. Students also must file an affidavit saying they plan to seek permanent residency.

During the fall semester, 12,138 students benefited from the law. Texas awarded about $33.6 million in state and institutional financial aid to those students between fall 2004 and summer 2008, according to the newspaper.

Gov. Rick Perry, who earlier this month won the GOP primary, supports the law aiding illegal immigrant students. Perry, in a recent debate, said the students are on the path to citizenship.

The Immigration Reform Coalition of Texas filed a challenge to the law in December.

"It's not like we're swimming in budget surpluses," said coalition attorney David Rogers, who maintains that taxpayers suffer because of the law. "It's the responsibility of the government of Mexico to educate Mexican citizens."

University of Houston law professor Michael A. Olivas said federal law allows states to draft their own policies. "It is a matter for states to determine," said Olivas. "In-state status is a state issue."

Former legislator Rick Noriega, who sponsored the in-state tuition law, said that educating the students is an economic development issue.

"This is about access to higher education," said Noriega, now the president of Avance, a nonprofit organization that educates Hispanic parents on preparing children for school.

"The alternative is to slam the door on any hopes and dreams. How are they going to perform in high school if they don't even have a chance at higher education?" he said.

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