SALEM– Jessica Garcia,16, is a hard-working sophomore at North Eugene High School, an A or B student, runs cross-country and track, is involved with several student organizations, and aspires to be a microbiologist.
Her parents entered the United States when she was one year old and eventually settled in Eugene, where she has lived and gone to school for years. Now, as Jessica sets her sights on college, the already bumpy financial road that most youths have to travel has turned into a brick wall.
This year the University of Oregon’s tuition and fees total approximately $8,190 for residents, and $25,830 for nonresidents, the highest they have ever been.
This prices hundreds, if not thousands, of Oregon teenagers out of the running for college if they cannot afford the raised rates.
Senate Bill 742, currently in front of lawmakers, would allow Oregon students who have gone to at least 3 years of high school here, or who have graduated from an Oregon high school, to qualify for in-state tuition at public universities.
“I am in a position to do great things and all I need is the opportunity to pay affordable tuition like all my peers,” Garcia told lawmakers in a press conference KVAL reported on. “I want my adopted country to allow me to keep dreaming like other young people.”
Oregon lawmakers believe that the state spends way too much money on undocumented students before college, only to turn them away after high school. “They hit this roadblock that holds them back and that prevents the state from capitalizing on the investment that we have already made in these young people,” Rep Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, remarked.
SB 742, or the “tuition equity” bill, has many opponents as well. Immigration reform is one of the hottest “button” issue of times.
Oregon Senator Fred Girod, a Republican from Stayton, said he was ready to oppose any such proposal, saying it was yet one more incentive to draw people into the United States illegally. “I don’t want to encourage people to come over the border illegally to have access to a better education than they can have in Mexico,” he told the RegisterGuard.
However, supporters are hoping to shift the focus from the immigration topic to the real issue at hand, “To those that would say this is an immigration issue and we need to send these children home, come on. Get real,” Sen. Frank Morse, R-Albany, told reporters. Morse voted against a similar bill in 2003, but has since changed his views, saying it’s more practical to give all students the opportunity to better themselves through education.