State schools don't verify citizen status
Every student admitted to a state university or college since 2013 has had to sign an affidavit swearing he or she is a legal U.S. resident in order to qualify for the in-state tuition rate. But the system doesn't verify their immigration status.
"Wouldn't you think there'd be a process the university has to enforce or verify? I would," Ladd said Saturday after the New Hampshire Sunday News highlighted the verification issue.
He doesn't think illegal aliens under his bill would falsify documents and risk arrest to save more than $50,000 over a four-year college career.
Many students who entered the United States illegally "were brought here as young people by their parents" and shouldn't be punished because they aren't legal U.S. citizens, he said.
"The U.S. Department of Education is involved in who is eligible for federal students aid; not legal status law," department spokesman Jane Glickman said in an email.
"While the governor has not yet had an opportunity to review the legislation and discuss it with University System officials, she believes that fully including all members of our communities is critical for New Hampshire's economic success and will closely follow the measure as it is considered by the Senate," said the governor's spokesman, Marc Goldberg.
Under the bill, students would have to meet other current requirements for in-state tuition and admission standards. They would need to have lived in the state for at least three years and have graduated from a New Hampshire high school or a program that produced a high school equivalency certificate.
"USNH follows the current law and will abide by any changes," Mantz said.
Currently, students receiving in-state tuition must have lived in New Hampshire for at least one year.
Ladd said the proposed bill requires a three-year minimum for undocumented students. "It's actually more harsh than for an out-of-state student," who may later qualify for in-state tuition by making his or her permanent home in the Granite State after only one year, Ladd said.
"How do we explain to the voters and the taxpayers of New Hampshire they are going to have to subsidize $13,000 a year more to people who came here illegally," asked Rep. Joe Duarte, R-Candia.
"New Hampshire shouldn't be penalizing these students for our federal government not taking action on providing some kind of immigration reform for these students," Mesa said.
"We're talking estimated projections," Ladd said. "Nobody knows. People aren't coming in saying they're illegal."
To calculate how many illegal immigrants in New Hampshire might qualify for in-state tuition under the bill, Ladd started with a statistic from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security stating 11.9 million illegal immigrants live in the United States. There are also an estimated 50,000 to 65,000 undocumented students graduating from high school in the United States, according to figures quoted by the National Conference of State Legislatures and others. That means for every undocumented student, there are between 183 and 238 illegal immigrants, Ladd said.
"No matter how we slice the number, the figures are not huge, but most importantly to me, it's not about the numbers but the opportunity for any child who graduates from a NH high school and who meets conditions of this bill to move forward with his or her educational aspirations at in-state costs and to become a productive member of society," Ladd said in an email.
David Ryan, an assistant Manchester school superintendent, said state law requires all students ages 6 to 17 to be enrolled in school.
He said new students enrolling in Manchester must provide proof of residency among other documents, "but we do not require a birth certificate."
"We do not ascertain legal or illegal residential status per protections afforded through the Office of Civil Rights," Ryan said.