Missouri Senate bill would ban in-state tuition for 'undocumented' students

In Joplin, Missouri in July of 2008, then-Governor Matt Blunt signed into law House Bill 1549, characterizing the bill as as some of the strongest legislation in the country to fight illegal immigration. House Bill 1549 was authored and sponsored by Bob Onder, who was at the time serving his first and only term in the Missouri House of Representatives.

HB-1549 required verification of lawful presence in the U.S. for every individual detained in a state or county prison, prevented the creation of sanctuary cities, required state contractors to enroll in E-Verify, and much more.

Post-secondary in-state tuition rates in Missouri

Missouri legislators are now considering a measure that would ban public colleges and universities from offering in-state tuition rates to students who are illegally present in the U.S.

Schools in the state already risk losing state funding if they offer students who are illegal aliens anything less than tuition charged to international students — which is what they are, after all. This is thanks to restrictions placed on state funding by means of the budget process.

Senate Bill 642, sponsored by Republican Senator Bob Onder from suburban St. Louis, would inscribe that policy in the Revised Statutes of Missouri.

“Undocumented” student tuition in the United States

At least seventeen states have passed legislation offering in-state tuition to illegal alien students, and at least seven states allow them to receive state financial aid.

Three states — Arizona, Georgia and Indiana — prohibit in-state tuition rates for illegals, and two states — Alabama and South Carolina — forbid their public postsecondary institutions to even enroll a student whose presence in the country is illegal.

States that allow illegal aliens to be charged in-state tuition rates have a “minor” problem, in the form of Section 507 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), which just so happens to be U.S. law. Here is Section 507:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State (or a political subdivision) for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident.

So if citizen George Smith lives in Missouri, citizen Jane Harris lives in Kansas, and illegal alien Zoran Jolevski also lives in Missouri, state universities in Missouri cannot charge Zoran Jolevski less than they would charge Jane Harris. That's just the way life is.

Generally, state laws require students to attend an in-state high school for a specified period, to be eligible for reduced tuition rates. “Immigrant rights” advocates use this fact to create an end-run around the IIRIRA, arguing that the essential legal requirement is high school attendance, not in-state residency. Opponents point out that the high school attendance requirement amounts to a de-facto residency requirement.

Missouri Senate Bill 642

If SB 642 becomes state law, no public institution of higher education would be allowed to offer students unlawfully present in the U.S. any public benefit or a tuition rate lower than the rate charged to international students. Postsecondary educational institutions awarding public benefits or in-state tuition rates would be required to verify that each recipient is lawfully present in the United States.

Verification could be accomplished by submitting one of seven different types of documents listed in the bill.

All postsecondary higher education institutions would have to certify to the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development once per year that they haven't knowingly awarded a public benefit or in-state tuition to a student who is unlawfully present in the United States.

SB-642 was introduced by Senator Bob Onder on January 8. Since then it has had two readings, and was passed by the Senate Education Committee on February 18.

Disclaimer: Information on this website is not legal advice.