Why Tuition Equity Matters

By Lupita Maurer of Aloha, Oregon. Lupita Maurer was born in Mexico City. She became a U.S. citizen and a Democrat in 1995. She was a member of the Oregon Council for Civil Rights from 2009-2011 and was recently appointed to the Oregon Commission on Hispanic Affairs by Governor Kitzhaber. She is a member of the Democratic National Committee.

After seeing most Mexican women in my family divorced, abandoned, and without a solid career to support themselves, I decided my ticket to a secure economic future would be an education. I came to this country as a teenager. I was visiting my mother when I decided not to return to the university in Mexico. She was living here legally in the United States, but not doing so well economically. So I remained, and started working with her cleaning houses. It was honest work, but our life here was vulnerable and scary, because I overstayed my tourist visa. Besides helping my mother, I only had one other goal in my mind: to get the Computer Science degree I had just begun to study for in Mexico. But the money you make from cleaning houses is not much, and we could not afford the non-resident tuition.

Then, the California Supreme Court and the Cal State University system gave me my big break. The Court decided that undocumented immigrants are eligible for in-state tuition rates at the state's colleges and universities rather than pay the higher rates charged to those who live out of state. I was accepted to finish my degree at the Cal State University, East Bay in 1990 paying in-state tuition rates.

I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s in Computer Science and 3.8 GPA. As soon as I graduated, I got a job as an engineer at Silicon Graphics, working on the help line and supporting manufacturing. Knowing that I am indebted to this wonderful country, I gladly pay considerable taxes, which I hope will be used to help others as I was once helped.

SB742, a bill providing in-state tuition to motivated, high-achieving students, is critical for the State of Oregon. We have young people who want to get ahead, and who are eager to give back to our country. SB 742 would allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at Oregon University System schools, and requires them to have attended and Oregon high school for at least three concurrent years, and to have graduated from an Oregon high school. It requires students to have been admitted to an Oregon University, and that they are actively working towards U.S. citizenship. And the passage of this bill costs almost nothing. In fact, there is no fiscal impact to the schools, as determined by the Oregon University System.

Today I still work in high tech, now at an Oregon company where I have worked for the last 15 years. I speak to middle school girls on the importance of math and science, which the United States needs for success in the future. I am deeply involved in my community, my new country where my children have been born, and support my church.

This country gave me the opportunity to get ahead, opened its arms to me. So, let us not turn our backs on the children in our midst. Not just for their future, but also for ours.

Comments

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    As a vendor in the car industry for over 16 years, I have come to know a large number of individuals from a variety of cultures and countries - and in some cases, I have come to know their sons, daughters and nephews.

    Angel came to Oregon as a child - a child of immigrants. Sans papers or documentation, he nonetheless advanced through Portland schools and graduated with honors. He is now a compassionate, intelligent and articulate 24 year old, and we often have the opportunity to chat about life. He fully comprehends the angst of Americans - to me he's said, "KC, I really understand; the economy is a mess and everyone is scrambling; I get where people are coming from when they're upset with the immigration situation."

    He continued: "But I have been here a long time; I worked hard in school, got good grades, and I'd like to have the opportunity to do more." Right now, Angel makes a living detailing cars, but he is capable of so much more.

    Angel is just asking for some hope and fairness. He did not make the decision to immigrate to the U.S., but he knows no other home, and leaving him without opportunity because of the decision of his parents almost a generation ago, is cruel and unjust punishment delivered to an innocent man. Right now that innocent man is in limbo.

    Its high time we did right by and for this good Oregonian and the others like him, and make SB742 a reality.

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    1. The 14th Amendment says that all persons naturalized in the US are citizens. In my humble legal opinion, those who are brought to this country as children (i.e., without intent to violate immigration laws) become naturalized simply by growing up American and ought to be recognized as citizens, particularly in the field of higher education.

    2. Those who knowingly violate those laws are in a much more problematic situation although good public policy dictates that drivers' licenses should be granted, simply as a law-and-order matter. Subsidizing higher education of undocumented aliens means that tuition rates for all students are correspondingly higher and/or the institutions suffer a lower rate of cost recovery -- and either alternative is a significant problem. I dispute the assertion that "there is no fiscal impact to the schools, as determined by the Oregon University System."

    3. The bottom line in the case of lower tuition rates for undocumented intentional violators ought to be measured in terms of what benefit the US gains from higher education for those in that category. This criterion should be stated in any statute which provides tuition rates available as a matter of course to legitimate residents. Of course sub-criteria would seem to include intent to become naturalized and thus stay in the US and continue to contribute to the American economy.

    4. With respect to the bill at hand, I've been told that it contains a lot of extraneous provisons that are covered up by the headline issue of tuition. If that is true, it is obvious that the bill requires some pruning.

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