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News : Education Apr 19, 2018 - 7:11:55 AM

Connecticut Senate Passes Bill Equalizing Access to Higher Education and Institutional Aid for Immigrant Students

By Connecticut Senate Democrats

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HARTFORD, CT - Members of the Connecticut State Senate on Wednesday passed Senate Bill 4, An Act Assisting Students Without Legal Immigration Status with the Cost of College, which -- beginning with the winter 2020 semester -- extends to certain students who lack legal immigration status the ability to apply for institutional financial aid to attend an in-state, public higher education institution.

The bill, which passed on a 30-5 bipartisan vote, extends eligibility for the aid to these students, to the extent allowed by federal law, if they meet certain residency, age, and criminal history requirements and if they file an affidavit about their intent to legalize their immigration status with the institution they are attending. The bill now heads to the House for consideration.

“Our state stands as a beacon of fairness, justice, and equality,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven). “Offering institutional financial aid to students regardless of immigration status is yet another sign of Connecticut’s commitment to fairness and equality. The Dreamers and beneficiaries of the DACA program have been here since they were very young; they put their faith in the United States and they are American in every way except for the circumstances of their birth. They are also a significant part of Connecticut’s future. Students who attain degrees from public universities and colleges in Connecticut are more likely to build careers in Connecticut. I am proud to stand with them today and I am proud that the Senate passed this important legislation.”

“Granting access to institutional aid is a matter of fairness. It is the right thing to do,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk). “On the Great Seal of the United States is included the motto, E pluribus unum: Out of many, one. It is a recognition that this nation was built, and continues to be built, by a diverse array people. These students are Connecticut kids, and although it may sound cliché, they are our future.”

“I want to thank the members of the Higher Education Committee who worked together to negotiate a truly bipartisan bill that strikes a balance between concerns on both sides of this issue,” said Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano (R-North Haven). “This bill represents an extensive, collaborative effort to help those working toward earning a college degree if they are on a direct path to citizenship. We want to encourage all young people in our state to pursue career paths that allow them to succeed, contribute to our state’s economy, and achieve the American dream. We also need to make sure financial assistance is protected and reserved for those who are on a path to citizenship and who are paying into this fund already. The best legislation is that which has been crafted with input from all sides.”

“At its core, this bill is about – and this issue has always been about -- basic fairness for Connecticut students,” said state Senator Beth Bye (D-West Hartford), who is Senate Co-Chair of the legislature’s Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee. “These students have come up through our public education system, they have endured challenges that many others have not, they have persevered, they have succeeded, and today we in the Senate allowed them access to the educational aid that they themselves have helped create. That is fairness. That is the right thing to do. And that is what America is all about: the chance to succeed through your own hard work.”

“Year after year, these students have been coming to the Capitol to share their stories, advocate for themselves, their communities, and their futures. It gives me great satisfaction to see their efforts come to fruition,” Senator Gary Winfield (D-New Haven) said. “Passing this bill in the Senate is a significant milestone. It is important that support for this bill comes from both sides of the aisle. When it comes up in the House, my hope is that we show these young people the best of Connecticut by passing it in a bipartisan manner in that chamber as well.”

“Undocumented students who live in our state and attend our public colleges and universities should be allowed access to the financial assistance from the pool that they all pay into,” Senator Mae Flexer (D-Danielson) said. “Connecticut Students for a Dream has been diligently advocating for this proposal for years. They have courageously told their stories and created the bipartisan bill we have today. I am thrilled that we are finally moving forward to provide equity for these students.”

SB 4 requires undocumented students to fulfill the following eligibility requirements to receive institutional aid:

meet the requirements for in-state student classification or be an honorably discharged veteran of the United States armed forces;
be 30 years old or younger as of June 15, 2012;
have been 16 years old or younger upon arrival in the United States and have continuously lived in the country since that time;
be free of felony convictions in all states; and
have filed an affidavit with the institution they are attending stating that they have either filed an application to legalize their immigration status or will file one as soon as they are eligible.

Students who lack legal immigration status already must file such an affidavit in order to qualify for in-state tuition.

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