Government & Politics

Kansas lawmakers drop effort to end in-state tuition for undocumented students

Rep. Kevin Jones, a Wellsville Republican, said of the bill he was sponsoring: “It was pretty obvious it was dead on arrival.”
Rep. Kevin Jones, a Wellsville Republican, said of the bill he was sponsoring: “It was pretty obvious it was dead on arrival.”

Kansas lawmakers have dropped an effort to repeal a law that allows undocumented high school graduates to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities.

When a Kansas House committee did not act by Monday on a bill to end in-state-tuition for undocumented graduates, the measure essentially died for the session.

After two days of testimony, the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Kevin Jones of Wellsville, said he would not try to advance it.

“It was pretty obvious it was dead on arrival,” said Jones, who is chairman of the House Higher Education Budget Committee.

Monday was the deadline for most House committees to act on proposed bills.

Adopted in 2004, the law allows students who have lived in the state since they were young children and who graduated from a Kansas high school to pay in-state tuition.

The in-state rate is much lower than the rate paid by students coming from other states to attend a Kansas college or university. At the University of Kansas, estimated in-state tuition is $9,818 a year. Students coming from out of state pay $25,587.

The Kansas Association of School Boards has opposed repeal of the in-state tuition law.

“Kansas needs more not fewer workers with the higher level skills that can be earned through attendance at two-year or four-year state colleges and universities,” Mark Tallman, the association’s associate director, said in a statement Tuesday. “It makes no economic or moral sense to erect higher barriers to post secondary success to the undocumented children who would lose benefits.”

Some who favor a repeal have argued that the students who benefit are breaking federal immigration law and should not be allowed to pay less than American citizens who live in another state.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is running for governor, has been a strong supporter of the repeal and talked about the bill last weekend at the Kansas GOP convention.

“We’ve got over 600 of them right now who are getting a taxpayer subsidy (from) you and me. You’re paying for their in-state tuition rates instead of subsidizing U.S. citizens, people from Kansas, or maybe people from neighboring states. That’s ridiculous,” Kobach said. “It’s outrageous and it’s against the law.”

According to the Kansas Board of Regents, 670 undocumented students were paying in-state tuition at a state college or university during the fall semester. Most of those students were at community colleges.

Mará Rose Williams: 816-234-4419, @marawilliamskc

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw