A bill introduced in the North Carolina Senate would give in-state tuition at public universities to North Carolina college students covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA.
Democratic state senators Wiley Nickel (from Wake), Mujtaba Mohammed (from Mecklenburg) and Natalie Murdock (from Durham) introduced SB-672 "In-State Tuition to DACA Recipients" on April 7.
"This is simply about access to education so these individuals can be productive members of society," Mohammed said. "The cost of tuition should not be a barrier to attaining the American dream."
Currently, DACA recipients — also known as “Dreamers” — are considered out-of-state students at North Carolina public institutions even if they have lived in the state for years. This means many end up paying up to four times more in tuition than their peers at state universities and community colleges.
The bill would apply to public universities and community colleges. To qualify, students must have attended a K-12 school in North Carolina for at least two years and graduated.
"They only know America. They only know North Carolina. They've been going to our public schools, oftentimes for years, if not their entire public school career," Mohammed said. "I think it's high time that we go ahead and provide in-state tuition to these students.”
There is no indication that this project has bipartisan support. Mohammed acknowledged there has been partisan divide in his conversations with legislators in both the House and the Senate.
"Sadly, these issues become partisan issues," he said. "I believe they're just simple 'right-and-wrong' issues. These are the moral, just things to do."
If passed, this law would go into effect July 1 and would apply to the upcoming 2021-22 academic year.
Similar laws have been passed in 18 states, including Utah and Texas. Most recently, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a into law last month a bill that allows undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition.
In North Carolina, bills giving DACA recipients in-state tuition were introduced in 2019. They never made it past the first reading.
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