Governor's budget proposal would reduce college tuition for non-U.S citizens

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A proposal in Governor Tony Evers' budget would potentially reduce college tuition for non-U.S. citizens.

Under the budget proposal, college applicants in the country illegally would pay in-state tuition if they've attended a Wisconsin high school and have been "present" in the state for three years.

According to the full budget, Evers recommends exempting a person who is a citizen of another country from nonresident tuition if that person meets all of the following requirements: (a) the person graduated from a Wisconsin high school or received a high school graduation equivalency declaration from this state; (b) the person was continuously present in this state for at least three years following the first day of attending a Wisconsin high school or immediately preceding the receipt of a declaration of equivalency of high school graduation; and (c) the person enrolls in a system institution or Wisconsin technical college and provides the institution or college with proof that the person has filed or will file an application for a permanent resident visa with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as soon as the person is eligible to do so.

Evers' plan would add Wisconsin to a list of 16 states that currently allow immigrants living in the U.S. without authorization to pay in-state college tuition, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Some Assembly Republican veterans are accusing Evers of offering undocumented students better treatment than veterans.

“Governor Evers has misplaced priorities if he thinks it’s acceptable that undocumented immigrants should have an easier path to in-state tuition than our veterans,” said Jesse James, 68th assembly district representative.

The Republican representatives are asking the members of the Joint Committee on Finance to remove the item from the budget.

They say under the proposal, the tuition break for each undocumented immigrant could run tens of thousands of dollars, much more than what veterans receive in the tuition remission program.

“If it's going to be three years for those that want to go to school here that are here illegally, then we should look at three years for the veterans that move into the state or even less,” said James.

According to the Associated Press, the plan would not give non-U.S. citizens a better deal on college compared to Wisconsin veterans.

Right now Wisconsin’s active duty veterans can attend the state's public colleges tuition-free, whereas Evers' proposal would reduce but not eliminate the tuition costs for non-U.S. citizens living in the state.

Evers’ office says there are additional provisions just for members of armed forces, veterans, and their families that give them even more flexibility to qualify for in-state tuition (Wis. Stat. s. 36.27(2)(b)1-4).

“This proposal is simply about treating all kids who graduated from Wisconsin high schools fairly,” said Evers’ office. “Republicans are conflating residency requirements for in-state tuition rates with eligibility for free tuition under the Wisconsin GI Bill. These are two different things.”