With little debate, the Senate Education Committee today endorsed HB 1684 by Rep. Dan Douglas (R-Bentonville) to allow in-state college tuition for several types of students who are not U.S. citizens.
Douglas amended the original broad form of his bill to specify who’s covered, apparently to meet concerns of Gov. Asa Hutchinson. The amendment is not on-line yet, but Douglas said it laid out three categories: 1) children of foreign workers in the country on work permits; 2) a provision for Marshall Island children, who have a significant population in Northwest Arkansas, and 3) Arkansas high school graduates who enjoy legal status in the country under the federal DACA, or Dream Act, program. They were presumptively covered under the original bill. But DACA status must be sought and some children who would qualify haven’t sought it for a variety of reasons, including essentially signaling that parents are in the country without documentation. This amendment thus seems to narrow the original bill somewhat, but it still will provide a huge boost to DACA students. Douglas told the committee of meeting such a child with a 4.3-grade-point who wanted to become a cardiologist but was stymied by the inability to afford college. “It made me cry,” he said.
He emphasized that the bill, as amended, applies only to “legal immigrants.” If DACA is repealed, that could change.
If passed in the Senate, the amended bill will have to go back to the House for concurrence.