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Tuition equity—a increasingly less controversial policy goal pushed for years by immigrant-rights advocates—is finally going to become the law of the land after a historic vote today by the Oregon Senate.
The Senate voted 19-11 on HB 2787, which will grant in-state college tuition to Oregon high school graduates who'd been brought into the country illegally. All 16 Democrats voted for it, marking the second time in two years that the chamber has assented to the idea.
The Oregon House, in a more climactic vote last month, had previously approved the bill by a wide margin. And now Governor John Kitzhaber is proudly saying he'll sign it.
"The thousands of young people who work hard in our schools deserve equal access to post-secondary education, and House Bill 2787 opens up that opportunity to them," Kitzhaber said in a statement. "This will help our state capitalize on the investment we've made in these students through the K-12 system while giving them their shot at the American dream. I appreciate the hard work of so many Oregonians to make this possible, and I look forward to signing the bill.”
The savings for the immigrant kids who qualify are potentially enormous. According to state figures, paying in-state tuition would save each qualified student $77,580 in tuition costs over four years.
Senate President Peter Courtney first persuaded his colleagues to back a similar bill in 2003 and then again in 2011 but could never get both the House and governor on board at the same time. That changed this year with help from State Representative Michael Dembrow and Speaker Tina Kotek.
“This bill creates a path to opportunity, a path to the American dream,” Courtney said in a statement. “All these students want is the same chance to succeed as their high school classmates.”