Bill would make in-state tuition policy law

State lawmakers are debating a bill to grant in-state tuition rates to Rhode Island high school graduates, regardless of their citizenship.

The state Board of Education previously established the rule. Legislators are asking that it become law.

"Administrations and people get elected, and laws are permanent," said state Sen. Juan Pichardo, D-Providence.

Several students testified Wednesday how continuing their education was critical to achieving their American dream.

The Board of Education reported that this year less than 60 students without citizenship received in-state tuition.

But there are some who see it as part of a package that would encourage illegal immigrants to come to Rhode Island.

"That's real incentive to come to Rhode Island. And if you look at the statistics of how many people are leaving the state and who's coming in, we're losing the people that are in the (higher-level job market), losing college graduates, and we seem to be growing in areas of illegal aliens and whatnot, so it's not helping our economy," said state Rep. Peter Palumbo, D-Cranston.

The bill, or something like it, has been submitted year after year, but backers hope that this year, with immigration reform front and center in Washington, that it might pass.