HARTFORD, CT — For the fifth consecutive year, undocumented college students, also known as Dreamers, are fighting to get a bill passed that would give them access to financial aid.
The Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee will hold a public hearing on H.B. 5031 Tuesday, Feb. 13, at 11 a.m.
Last year, the committee forwarded similar bills to both the Senate and House. But neither chamber raised the bill for a vote.
“Students have been fighting for four years for equal access,” said Camila Bortolleto, campaign manager of CT Students for a Dream. “This year Connecticut has an opportunity to stand up in support our immigrant students. We are asking for equality, not special treatment.”
According to studies conducted by ACLU, Connecticut has approximately 120,000 undocumented residents. Proponents of the legislation say it gives them the same opportunity to receive financial assistance from Connecticut universities and colleges as other Connecticut residents. The students say it is unfair that they don’t have access to a fund to which they contribute through their tuition payments.
Connecticut started allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates in 2011. In 2015, the Senate, but not the House, approved legislation that would give them access to more than $100 million in financial aid.
It was the closest they got to passage.
Connecticut wouldn’t be the first state to adopt such a policy.
Other states including California, New Mexico, Minnesota, Texas, and Washington give undocumented students access to financial aid.
Werner Oyanadel, senior analyst for the Commission on Equity and Opportunity, said in testimony submitted to the committee that the legislation would have a beneficial impact on Connecticut’s economy.
“Connecticut will face significant labour shortages as a high proportion of our working population will be retiring at a higher clip in years to come,” Oyanadel said. “Opening financial aid to students without immigration status is one sure way to address the pressing need for educational equity in Connecticut and help partially deal with current population changes affecting our state.”
Lawmakers, who traditionally have opposed the legislation, don’t believe it’s fair that undocumented students — even those who were brought to the United States illegally as children— might gain access to financial aid because it’s not an unlimited amount of money. It would mean undocumented students are competing against U.S. citizens who are Connecticut residents for the funding, which comes from a portion of everyone’s tuition.