Legislation requires affidavit for in-state tuition
On a party-line vote, the Senate voted 19-5 to approve House Bill 1383, which would require students entering University System of New Hampshire colleges to sign an affidavit vowing they are legal residents of the United States in order to receive in-state tuition.
The House approved the bill in February, but would have required the University System of New Hampshire to determine whether students paying in-state tuition are legal U.S. residents.
The Senate version would put the responsibility on students to say they are legal residents, which supporters said would do not prevent a student from going to any of the four colleges in the state system, but would determine the price they pay.
Democrats argued the bill would put another barrier in the way of accessible and affordable higher education for state residents.
The bill has the backing of House Speaker William O'Brien, R-Mont Vernon.
'What you are doing here is putting up another barrier to higher education,' said Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester. 'We should be opening the doors to education to people. If I want to go the bathroom, am I going to have to prove I'm a man to get into the men's room?'
Sen. Molly Kelly, D-Keene, said students who have attended New Hampshire public schools all their lives would be denied in-state tuition under the bill. She said a person would have to be an immigration lawyer to understand who is a legal U.S. resident.
Federal law prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving in-state tuition at universities and colleges.
Democrats also argued the bill really is about illegal immigration and should be handled at the federal level, not by a state legislature.
There are approximately 20,000 students in the university system.
The bill has to go back to the House because of the Senate changes.
The Chancellor's Office of the University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees would have to report annually to lawmakers on its work to restore autonomy to the four colleges within the system under another bill.
The Senate changed HB 1692 to require the report and another report by November on the Board of Trustees' work.
The House voted 247-105 last month to do away with the Chancellor's Office and use the savings to help lower tuition.
In the House version, the bill would eliminate the Chancellor's Office and move its duties and authority to the system's board of trustees and individual college administrators.
The office would be eliminated by July 1, 2013.
During Senate debate Wednesday, D'Allesandro called the Senate version of the bill 'a sensible solution with a sensible message.'
He said the House bill is draconian and an attempt to micro-manage the university system.
The Senate also voted 17-7 to give initial approval to HB 1607, which would establish an education scholarship program by offering business tax credits for company's contributing to the fund.
Low- and middle-income students would receive up to a $2,500 scholarship to attend private or parochial schools. The student's family would have to be at 300 percent of the federal poverty level or below.
Students being home schooled could receive up to a $750 scholarship.
School districts losing students due to the scholarships would lose $4,100 per student in state education aid.
The program would be limited to $4 million the fist year, then $6 million, and $8 million the third year.
Businesses would receive an 85 percent tax credit against state business taxes.
D'Allesandro said the bill amounts to a school voucher program.
'Now we are talking about doing things that undermine one of the basic tenants America was built on: public education,' he said.
The bill will be reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee before the Senate takes final action on the bill.
The House has passed a similar measure.