Dead in the Water: Legislation to End In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students Gains no Traction at Texas Legislature

Business groups and others opposed to ending the so-called Texas Dream Act, a state law that provides a tuition break for certain undocumented students, appear to have been successful during this session of the Texas Legislature. Many of our readers have asked about the status of the bills to end in-state tuition for undocumented students. 

Bills to repeal the law first enacted in 2001 were filed at the start of the legislative session, which wraps up at the end of this month. 

A House Bill and a Senate Bill were both filed and referred to committees. But as of this week they have not received hearings and legislative deadlines that are passing or coming up very soon make it nearly impossible for either to become Texas law. That said, nothing is ever truly dead until the legislative session has ended. 

As a judge once wrote, "No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session." 

Procedurally at this point, the proposals would have to be attached to other legislation as amendments. Oftentimes entire bills are tacked onto others in the closing days of a legislative session only to later be stripped from those bills in conference committees. Bottom line: Anything can happen and it’s wise for business groups and activists to remain vigilant until the clock runs out in the session. 

Earlier this year, a business coalition called Texans for Economic Growth was launched to oppose “harmful effects of anti-immigrant legislation.”

“In particular, the Coalition will oppose efforts to increase public college and university tuition for certain long-term Texas resident students. Under current Texas law, all students who have lived in the state for three years and graduate from a Texas high school are eligible for in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities,” the group said. “This law, established in 2001 and championed by then-Governor Rick Perry, has been in place for nearly two decades and has helped young Texans get the education they need to help Texas’ workforce and economy grow and thrive.”

The group pointed to research from the New American Economy showing that “if residency requirements were changed, it could lead to nearly $400 million in lost economic activity for Texas each year.”

The group, founded by Rupert Murdoch and Michael Bloomberg, said that since the law went int effect, “students who benefited from HB 1403 earned $19.7 billion more than they would have without a college degree.”

“During the same time period, that increase in earnings resulted in more than $17.0 billion in additional economic activity in Texas,” the group said. “Without these new graduates, Texas could lose up to $213.6 million in wage earnings in just one year. The loss in additional wages could cost the Texas economy $184.2 million in additional spending power annually.”

Business leaders like Norman Adams in Houston argued that because most of these students attend community colleges and go on to work for local employers, “a better educated workforce makes the Texas economy stronger.”

“This legislation has enabled undocumented immigrants and legal non-citizen immigrants who want to attend college and develop their careers in Texas to be able to afford it. The ‘affidavit students,’ as they are called, for the most part fill seats that otherwise would go unoccupied,” Adams said. “The overwhelming majority of them attend community colleges.  Very few of our state-supported universities and colleges enjoy full enrollment.  Even though in-state tuition is about 1/3 of nonresident tuition, if we eliminate the millions of dollars currently being paid by affidavit students, our state supported institutions would be forced to lay off staff or ask for more of our tax dollars.”


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