Missouri House GOP Reject In-State Tuition for Immigrants
Missouri House Republicans on Thursday backed away from a budget compromise that would allow colleges and universities to charge in-state tuition to students living in the U.S. illegally.
The GOP-led House voted 110-43 against the deal. That means a panel of House and Senate lawmakers will get another shot to negotiate on the policy, which is included in the proposed state budget for public higher education.
Lawmakers face a Friday deadline to pass a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins in July.
Missouri lawmakers previously put restrictions on the use of state dollars for tuition for students “with an unlawful immigration status.” Because of that, schools face losing state funding if they offer those students anything less than the tuition rate charged to international students.
Members of a 10-person panel of bipartisan negotiators this week agreed to end that policy. But the move spurred outrage among House Republicans, who voted it down on the House floor.
“We only have so much money to allocate to state subsidies for higher education,” Springfield Republican Rep. Curtis Trent said. “Why should that not go to the people who live here, who pay taxes here, who have followed the rules and obeyed the laws of the land?”
St. Peters Republican Rep. Phil Christofanelli said House lawmakers would be willing to vote down the entire public higher education budget to protest the tuition provision.
“I will never vote to fund an illegal immigrant education in our state’s budget,” Christofanelli said.
Missouri is one of six states that blocks in-state tuition for students living in the country illegally, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Actions by lawmakers in 16 states allow in-state tuition, and five more states provide for that through state university systems.
The latest version of Missouri’s higher education budget still includes a ban on colleges providing scholarships to students living in the country illegally.
Democrats slammed efforts to undo the compromise.
Columbia Democratic Rep. Kip Kendrick told colleagues during debate on the House floor that he once had to inform a single parent working two part-time jobs that she would have to pay international tuition and she “started bawling, because she understood that higher education, a way out of poverty, was unattainable.”
“It broke my heart, because this is a person that’s done everything we ask of anyone: pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, working hard (and) really trying to become the best person that she can be,” he said. “She was brought to this country when she was 1 year old by her parents. That was not a decision of her own.”
Lawmakers’ roughly $30 billion budget proposal includes an additional $61 million in core K-12 public school funding, and colleges and universities are set to get at least $1 million more compared to this year.
Lawmakers ditched Gov. Mike Parson’s original plan to borrow $350 million to fix 250 bridges across the state. Instead, they agreed to spend $50 million in un-earmarked general revenue on bridge repairs next fiscal year, plus another $50 million for a local cost-share program.
If the state gets a federal infrastructure grant to help pay to fix an Interstate 70 bridge in the mid-Missouri city of Rocheport, that would kick in another roughly $300 million in bonding under another pending proposal.