When Texas A&M University’s student body President Jacob Robinson vetoed a bill from the university’s senate earlier this week, the issue of in-state tuition for undocumented Texas residents again took the spotlight.
If the bill passed, it would have allowed A&M’s Student Government Association to lobby the Texas Legislature to overturn a state law that currently allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at public colleges, as long as the students graduated from a U.S. high school and meet other residency requirements.
Justin Pulliam, a student senator for A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was one of the senators who proposed the bill last semester. The bill, which passed with a 41-26 vote, was purely a tuition issue, not a comment on who should be allowed to live in the U.S. or attend its universities, he said.
“It’s about making a fair tuition policy for Texas students and taxpayers,” said Pulliam, an animal sciences junior. “Texas universities are public resources, and we should not be subsidizing education for people who can’t legally work after they graduate.”
Current state law allows U.S. citizens, permanent residents and certain international students to claim Texas residency if they meet the criteria set by the bill. For an A&M undergraduate enrolled in 12 hours of classes, in-state tuition is $4,193 per semester, according to A&M’s Division of Finance website. Tuition for nonresident undergraduates is $11,843.
“We don’t think it’s right that Texas is giving the privilege of in-state tuition to illegal immigrants,” Pulliam said. “We feel like they should be treated more like international students, and Texas shouldn’t reward them for being in the country illegally.”
Pulliam said the student body president did not pay enough attention to students’ opinions before he made his decision to veto the senate’s bill.
“I believe there is overall support for the bill, and it is outrageous that our president is listening to lobbying groups, many who support the DREAM act, and seems to be supporting their opinions over the views of A&M students,” Pulliam said.
Robinson vetoed the senate bill because it would not have an effect on A&M students, he said.
“The state clearly defines who can get in-state tuition, and at the end of the day we’re really not helping anyone unless we define what residency is,” he said. “This needs to be addressed at the state Legislature and not the Texas A&M Student Senate.”
After the senate’s External Affairs Committee proposed the bill last spring, senators sent it back to the committee for more research and an intent to survey the entire student body about the issue before voting on it, according to The Battalion, A&M’s student newspaper.
“There was no data with this bill,” Robinson said. “It only expressed the opinion of the student senate. I don’t want my name attached to a bill that has no official data behind it. It’s simply hearsay.”
Chelsea Adler, president of UT’s Senate of College Councils, said the issue of who is allowed to receive in-state tuition is one that students should be forming their own opinions about.
“I believe every effort should be made to educate students on the current situation,” Adler said. “This is ultimately an issue for the state Legislature to address, and this conversation should take place on every college campus in Texas so that student opinion is accurately reflected.”