Push to give in-state tuition to undocumented students - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Push to give in-state tuition to undocumented students

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

They're here illegally, but want equal opportunity for affordable education. Undocumented students are joining in the decade-long push for changes to the state law.

 "Mississippi is and has been my home since I was twelve years old," Mexico native ADrian Gamboa told a house committee Monday.

Gamboa graduated from Biloxi High School in 2012. He had a high enough ACT score to qualify for scholarships. That's if he was a documented resident...but he's not.

"I actually do live in Mississippi," explained Gamboa. "I don't think I should be considered an out of state student."

He went to community college for one semester but was paying double the price of in-state students.

"This semester now I'm taking it off because I can't afford $2,000 a semester," said Gamboa. "But if I could pay in state tuition, I wouldn't have to take semesters off every other semester."

Members of the House Universities and Colleges Committee don't think situations like Gamboa's should exist.

"They're going to be productive citizens," argued Representative Cecil Brown-D. "These are people that have gone through a lot to get where they are. They want to fit into the community, they want to pay taxes, they want to get jobs, they want to get a good education."

Activist Jackie Castro-Cooper says current state laws put up road blocks for them.

"We're talking about dreams," she explained. "We're talking about human lives in Mississippi that have halted. They have stopped because they do not have the money to go to college."

Committee vice chairman Gregory Holloway says they'll have to re-visit the issue next session.

"The jury's still out," said Holloway. "There's still some information about the number of undocumented immigrants in the state and how much it would cost the state."

Adrian Gamboa is anxiously waiting to see if the decade-long fight will come to an end soon and save his family's bank account.

"It's a heavy cross that my family and I have to carry," said Gamboa.

Federal law only requires states to provide K-12 education to undocumented students. The call on offering in-state college tuition is left up to the states.

Immigrants rights workers estimate there are between 800-1,000 students who would be impacted by a change in the law.

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