MUNCIE Ind. – Indiana’s new immigration law is raising concerns among international students who worry they won’t be eligible for tuition waivers or fellowships that help pay for their U.S. educations.
The law that took effect July 1 states that “public assistance” for postsecondary education is only available to U.S. residents or “qualified aliens.” International students using the F or J visa are not included in the definition of qualified alien.
International graduate students often receive tuition waivers or fellowships as part of payment for teaching and research duties. Many rely on the money to attend school.
The bill was meant to model Indiana’s immigration law on Arizona’s tough crackdown on illegal immigration. But the bill was stripped of provisions requiring local and state police to enforce federal immigration laws, leaving its focus on denying tax breaks to businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
The law’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Mike Delph, said the law was designed only to target illegal immigrants. “Students on a student visa are not illegal immigrants,” he told The Star Press.
Ball State and Indiana universities say they don’t expect the law to impact their international students.
About 10 percent of the 651 international students enrolled at Ball State last year received tuition waivers allowing them to pay in-state rates. International students also are eligible for graduate assistantships, working on campus as high-level teaching assistants and lab assistants or as office assistants.
University spokeswoman Joan Todd said the new law requires the university to verify the students’ status. Students have to provide a Social Security number or international student number to verify their legal status, she said.
Officials at Purdue and Indiana universities say they don’t believe the law’s intent was to restrict opportunities for international students who are in the U.S. legally.
“You can see how it can be read a certain way,” IU spokesman Mark Land told the Journal & Courier in Lafayette. “Right now, we are comfortable that it is not the intent of the bill. We are operating as normal.”
Delph has said lawmakers would revisit the law if there are unintended consequences.