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Bipartisanship smooths Tuition Equity bill

April 9, 2011

News staff writer

Bipartisanship - the Oregon State Senate experienced this unusual phenomenon March 30 when it passed SB 742, the Tuition Equity Bill.

The bill, which would allow college students to pay in-state tuition regardless of immigration status - provides some relief to undocumented students who, up until now, were required to pay out-of-state tuition and/or international student fees because they lacked immigration papers - even if they had been lifelong state residents.

The two major sponsors of the Senate version of this measure are Republicans Frank Morse (Albany) and David Nelson (Pendleton). The two Republicans were joined in voting yes for the bill by a third Republican, Hood River resident and Senator from District 26, Chuck Thomsen.

Morse, who had personal experience with immigration roadblocks - his daughter's significant other faced similar challenges - has spoken forcefully in support of the legislation.

SB 742 passed the Senate with a vote of 18-11 with one abstention.

Oregon's legislature is nearly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, with the House split 30-30 and the Senate 16-14 in favor of the Democrats.

The bill now goes before the House Rules committee (avoiding a politically log-jammed House Committee on Education) and then onto the full House for a vote.

On a federal level, the education ceiling issue is being tied together with a "path to citizenship" through the current reintroduction of the Dream Act legislation, which in December 2010 passed in the House but fell eight votes short of the threshold needed to advance it through the Senate.

The Dream Act bill would provide conditional permanent residency to certain illegal and deportable alien students who graduate from U.S. high schools, who are of good moral character, arrived in the U.S. illegally as minors and have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment.

If those youth were to complete two years in the military or two years at a four-year institution of higher learning, the students would obtain temporary residency for a six-year period.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has announced this week that he will bring a revised Dream Act bill before congress in this session.

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