At least Missouri legislators are finally fessing up to their true motivations.
That much can be said for the assault waged on some immigrant students. Gov. Jay Nixon’s support for allowing these students to receive the A+ Scholarship is on the block in this month’s veto session. The students have a lawful presence through the Department of Homeland Security. They’ve paid federal fees, passed checks of their character and qualified academically.
That’s not good enough for these politicians. They smell an easy target.
These legislators also slipped a constitutionally questionable wording change into the preamble of the higher education appropriations bill. The change was interpreted to mean that these same immigrant students — despite having grown up in Missouri and getting an OK by the federal government — must pay out of state or international tuitions two to three times higher. For most of them, that will price them out of college.
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This is happening for two reasons. Legislators don’t want to grapple with the umbrella issue: funding higher education appropriately and ensuring that more children can afford postsecondary education. The A+ Scholarship Program is popular and growing in costs. It allows for qualified Missouri high school graduates to be reimbursed for two years of study at community colleges and technical schools.
But in 2015, it is simply too seductive to slam immigrant students, especially those brought here by their parents as small children, without the right documents.
These students are merely collateral damage for gutless politicians. One sponsoring legislator even admitted to a Star reporter that he hadn’t thought any of the affected students were enrolled, in the midst of their studies.
Really? He hadn’t even researched the issue that far? An elected official who pushes a policy change affecting hundreds of students without determining that they would, in fact, be denied an education?
Another legislative break from reality: The contention that these families haven’t contributed. There are no free passes from paying state taxes on purchases. And anyone who pays a landlord rent contributes to public coffers on property taxes.
The problems of funding higher education will not be solved on the backs of a few hundred immigrant students. What the politicians are doing is denying colleges the fees and tuition these students are eager to pay.
It’s shallow. Their political motivations are not logical, fair or productive for the future of Missouri.