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Roadblocks on path to higher education: No 'good life' for undocumented immigrants who may soon be required to pay out-of-state tuition
Alex Morales
Antelope Staff

Nebraska— the good life: its people recognized for their manners once they venture to the outskirts of the Midwest and beyond, a place where it is common to wave at a perfect stranger and not rare to extend that wave as a lending hand to that very stranger. At the heart of the nation Nebraska pulsates its unique values throughout the land and to its citizens. But folks, we have a heart murmur, and it jeopardizes those values for which this state beats for.

Earlier this year Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont introduced an amendment to repeal a law that allows Nebraska high school graduates who aren’t U.S. citizens or legal residents to attend a Nebraska public college or university at in-state tuition rates.

As it stands, the present law requires that students must have lived in the state for at least three years and must be pursuing or promise to pursue legal status.

As of mid-December, only 35 such students were enrolled in the state university system, according to figures compiled by Janssen’s office. That includes 15 at UNK. State colleges reported none, and community college officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for the information.

Lawmakers’ premise to repeal is that Nebraska’s law violates a 1996 federal law that prohibits higher education institutions from giving benefits to illegal immigrants without offering the same break to U.S. citizens.

What is earned is not a benefit much less a break. Of all people, Nebraskans know this. Hard work is one of the hallmarks of this state, and these students have lived up to those standards. We must remember, these students are not in this situation as a consequence of their own decisions. However, their efforts have qualified them to pursue a higher education.

Now let’s set aside both preconceptions of the issue, step back and see the big picture. In the long run, bending the federal law would be insignificant. It is only a matter of time before immigration reform will take place. First on the list to be on the path to legal status will be those with an academic background. If a better future is what we all strive for, we must acknowledge that these students are the future of Nebraska— just as much as their citizen counterparts. There is no need to block their path to higher education.

On the other hand, if the federal law stands, Nebraska will join the ranks with Georgia, Oklahoma, Colorado and Arizona as states that do not allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates. All of these states also have lower high school graduation rates than Nebraska.

Numbers don’t always represent realities, but patterns do tend to repeat themselves.

Who is to say these students aren’t Nebraskans anyhow? Yes, their roots are buried in another land, but they blossomed underneath the same sun that Nebraska-born individuals blossomed under. They understand the significance of harvest in the fall. They know the passion behind Husker football. They’ve dodged a tornado, and perhaps even wandered through country roads with a beer in hand. They are Nebraskans. They should not have to pay out-of-state tuition. They are part of the good life.



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