Student activists lobby for tuition equity

Photo by Matt Chaney

More than a dozen members and allies of the Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Schools, known as PLUMAS at VCU, sat in the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs to call lawmakers and ask for support for tuition equity.

The students urged support of House Bill 343 introduced by Del. Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax) and cosponsored by Delegate Elizabeth Guzman (D-Prince William). The bill permits in-state tuition eligibility for undocumented students and DACA recipients.  

The bill sits in the Virginia House Committee on Rules. PLUMAS is working to get the bill heard by the Higher Education Subcommittee.

“We are calling to ask that this bill be reviewed alongside other education bills and considered with the same standards rather than be put in a committee where it will not be given the same priority as other education bills,” read a post on the group’s Facebook page.

According to the 2018 Fiscal Impact Statement, the bill would apply to individuals who graduated from a high school in the commonwealth or passed a high school equivalent examination, registered in a public institution of higher education and submitted evidence of filing Virginia income tax returns.

To be eligible for in-state tuition, the student must provide an affidavit to the university stating they filed an application to become a permanent United States resident.

“This tuition equity bill is designed to provide in-state tuition benefits for students with fluctuating immigration statuses, and therefore clearly related to issues of access to higher level education,” PLUMAS stated on Facebook.

The bill could be killed without consideration if it’s not referred to the Higher Education Subcommittee.

According to data from the Division of Student Affairs, VCU had 70 self-reported DACA students as of last September. Although Pres. Michael Rao released a statement of support for DACA students in September, he has not commented on HB 343.

“I would like to see VCU take their own action on making sure in-state tuition stays,” said Haziel Andrade, who serves as the legislative chair for VCU’s PLUMAS.

Out-of-state tuition and fees are around $32,000 annually at VCU — more than double the average $13,000 for in-state students.

At some other universities in the state, such as the University of Virginia, the tuition and fees for out-of-state students are almost triple as for in-state students.

For many students, the cost difference between the two rates can mean losing the opportunity to afford and attend an institution of higher education.

“If this bill passes, it would have a big impact on people that are currently working really hard to make sure their in-state tuition stays,” Andrade said.


Maryum Elnasseh, Contributing Writer

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