ANNAPOLIS – After a charged three-hour morning debate, the Senate on Wednesday adopted the favorable committee report on in-state tuition for undocumented students, but will be back for more debate at 5 p.m.
The time was largely spent on debate over a committee amendment clarifying that undocumented students would be required to first attend the community college that services their high school for an associate’s degree or 60 credits. There had previously been confusion over whether undocumented students could shop around the state for a community college to attend at in-county tuition rates.
The amendment, clarifying that they could not, passed 26-20.
Senate Minority Leader Nancy Jacobs, R-Cecil, said she has at least nine amendments lined up for the evening’s debate, but could prepare more before they assemble.
Concerns raised included the increased cost of providing state aid for community colleges, estimated at almost $800,000 in 2014 and $3.5 million in 2016, depending on how many students take advantage of the law.
Although opponents say the bill would be too expensive, supporters say the legislative analysis doesn’t take into account the benefits of a larger population of college graduates, including increased revenues from income taxes.
“How do you put a value on a college education?” asked Senate President Mike Miller.
The law requires that students attend a Maryland high school for two years, graduate from a Maryland high school, apply within fours years of graduation, and attend their local community college until they receive an associate’s degree. In order to continue receiving in-state tuition, students must then enroll in a public, four-year institution within four years of attaining an associate’s degree or 60 credits.
Students, or their parents or guardians, must show that taxes have been filed during that time. Students must also submit an affidavit testifying that they will apply for legal status within 30 days of becoming eligible.
Opponents of the bill argued that the bill was an unfunded mandate for the local governments that fund community colleges, that students would be incriminating themselves or their parents by revealing their immigration status through tax filings, and that the state would be violating federal law by enacting the legislation.
Supporters, led by Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, said that local governments determine how to fund their community colleges, that the Internal Revenue does not enforce legal status and therefore students will not be incriminating themselves, and that 10 other states have already enacted similar legislation.
Four of those states are considering repealing those laws.
Opponents also argued that the law would be unfair for legal residents and citizens, giving space and resources to undocumented students.
Testimony on the House of Delegates’ version of the bill is being heard in committee Wednesday.
– By Capital News Service’s Holly Nunn