INDIANAPOLIS — Hundreds of college students around Indiana have admitted to being undocumented immigrants and are being forced to pay out-of-state tuition rates that can triple their bills.
They’re facing those big jumps under laws approved by the Legislature this year taking away in-state tuition eligibility from students “not lawfully present” in the country.
About 300 students among the some 340,000 at Indiana’s seven public colleges have acknowledged they aren’t in the country legally, The Indianapolis Star reported Wednesday.
Sayra Perez, who was born in Mexico and has lived in the United States since she was 5, faced completing an electronic affidavit certifying she was a citizen or documented immigrant when she signed into her student account at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
“When I saw it, it felt really bad,” says Perez, who was among five young undocumented immigrants arrested in May during a protest of the law at Gov. Mitch Daniels’ office. “It was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I can’t believe they’re really doing it.’ ”
The tuition law is justified, supporters say, because students who are undocumented immigrants divert resources from legal residents.
Republican state Rep. Mike Karickhoff of Kokomo, who co-sponsored the tuition legislation, cites the example of his son-in-law, originally from Costa Rica, who paid out-of-state costs to go to Purdue.
“There are kids in our state that want to go to college,” Karickhoff says. “The resources are limited. They should have to be a legal resident of the state.”
Indiana is one of six states to bar students in the country illegally from getting the resident tuition rate.
Before the Indiana law went into effect July 1, the state’s public colleges had been left to make their own judgments about in-state tuition eligibility requirements. Indiana University, Ivy Tech, the University of Southern Indiana and Vincennes University allowed undocumented immigrants to get resident-rate tuition under certain circumstances. Purdue, Ball State and Indiana State did not.
Indiana University is requiring students to sign an online affidavit, under penalty of perjury, as to whether they are in the country legally. Of about 100,000 students in the IU system, an estimated 100 have declared themselves as undocumented immigrants so far, university spokesman Mark Land says.
In-state tuition this year for IU’s main campus in Bloomington is about $9,500, with out-of-state tuition about $20,000 more.
“Considering that a lot of these kids are first-generation college kids, even paying in-state tuition is a problem for some,” Land says. “These kids are being put in a challenging spot.”
Students don’t have to provide any documentation on the IU affidavit, and Land says school officials will not go searching for violators.
“The presumption is that people understand the penalty for not telling the truth, and they’ll do the right thing,” Land says. “And that’s what we’re counting on.”
Perez had a tuition bill of $3,200 a semester for a full class load as a freshman at IUPUI. She’ll pay about $4,500 to take only two classes this year toward a biochemistry degree.
“I just want to go to school; is that that bad?” she says. “Do you know how many kids don’t want to go to school?”