Photo: University of Massachusetts Amherst
A Massachusetts lawmaker is claiming that a University of Massachusetts Amherst plan to offer free in-state tuition to outstanding community college graduates would be used by illegal immigrants to unfairly take advantage of the system.
During a hearing last week, the Republican House Representative Richard Bastien of Gardner, MA, asked, “Is this not a backdoor way for illegal immigrants to get free tuition at UMass? I’m not saying they shouldn’t be able to go. They should just pay for out-of-state tuition.”
The tuition proposal was announced by Gov. Deval Patrick and the UMass Amherst chancellor Robert Holub. It would allow community college graduates with a GPA of 3.0 or higher to enroll at the school and have tuition bill ($1,714) waived. They would still be required to pay annual student fees ($10,018).
Bastien testified before the Joint Committee on Higher Education last Wednesday, and shared his concerns with the community college presidents. He stated that based on what he was told at a multiple community colleges, while some require a copy of a prospective student’s passport or birth certificate to prove residency, some only require a Social Security card and another document like a phone bill as proof.
“We know from identity theft that people can get Social Security cards from anywhere,’’ said Bastien. “So are we doing a good enough job at the community college level to verify that the person matches the Social Security number?’’
Both UMass Amherst officials and the Governor’s administration reiterate that the waiver for transfers from community colleges only applies to in-state students, and that when applying, the students must sign “a form that is a legal affidavit swearing they are legal residents.”
However, Bastien, not satisfied and said, “You could literally come down from New Hampshire, get an apartment, and that would prove your residency status. I would like to see something that proves more permanency, like a driver’s license.”