With tuition equity vote today, House Democrats will boost education and economy

By State Representatives Joe Gallegos and Jessica Vega Pederson. Rep. Gallegos represents the Hillsboro and North Plains area of Washington County. Rep. Vega Pederson represents the Parkrose area of East Portland. Both were elected in 2012.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell when your activism is making a difference. Oregon Democrats should look to the state House of Representatives today in Salem to see years of hard work result in a vote to expand education and improve Oregon’s workforce.

Today, the House of Representatives is expected to pass House Bill 2787, otherwise known as tuition equity. This policy would provide in-state tuition to students who have grown up here in Oregon but are undocumented because their parents brought them to this country as children. These students performed well enough to gain admission to Oregon colleges and universities. But without this measure, they would be forced to pay out-of-state rates – triple the in-state tuition cost. For many of these students, paying out-of-state tuition is simply not an option, and so they are cut off from their hopes of attending college.

Tuition equity has won enthusiastic support of all the major statewide business organizations. They know it will support a strong economy by producing the highly skilled workforce Oregon needs to stay competitive. Higher education gives Oregonians the increased earning power that can help create a better quality of life.

Oregon’s university leaders also support tuition equity. They say tuition equity reflects the same spirit of our public university system, which aims to provide access to education regardless of stature or status. Young immigrants should not be denied access to affordable higher education because of their parents’ decisions. We need to educate the youth who grow up here with a dream to succeed in the state they know as their home.

For years, Democratic legislative leaders worked heroically on this issue. Senate President Peter Courtney and Representatives Michael Dembrow and Chris Harker fought to expand higher education access, only to hit a brick wall of mainly misguided Republican opposition in the House.

Thanks to many BlueOregon readers, Democrats took over the House last fall. As two of the new members sent to Salem in the 2012 election, we know how hard it was to restore a Democratic majority. We’re so gratified to see this effort poised to pass the House today, with the Senate and Governor expected to finalize it soon into law.

Please join us in celebrating the this milestone by watching today’s vote in Salem, viewable online here starting at 11 a.m. and watch your new House majority at work. You can also follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

guest column

connect with blueoregon