By Jay Mwamba
Gov. George Pataki last Friday signed into law legislation allowing undocumented immigrants attending City University of New York and State University of New York schools to be charged State resident tuition fees.
The law is a big break for some 3,000 out-of-status students, including a number of Irish immigrants, who will be spared paying the non-resident rate, which is more than twice the amount charged U.S. citizens and permanent residents that graduated from New York State high schools.
CUNY’s resident tuition is $3,200 per year and its non-resident rate is $6,800 at four-year colleges. SUNY’s senior college resident tuition is $3,400 per and its non-resident rate is $8,300. Under the new law, eligible students will save thousands of dollars through the course of their college education, potentially making the difference between being able to attend school or not.
“New York has been a beacon of freedom and opportunity for generations, and those who have come to our shores have made tremendous contributions to our State and Nation,” Pataki said at the signing ceremony at City College.
“This legislation reinforces New York’s proud legacy as a bastion of hope and opportunity by ensuring access to a high-quality, affordable higher education for hard-working immigrants.”
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The governor’s legislation, developed in consultation with members of the State Senate and Assembly who had introduced similar legislation, provides specific criteria for eligibility for the resident tuition level charge at SUNY or CUNY, consistent with Federal law.
Now undocumented immigrant students will pay resident rates if they either: attended a New York State high school for at least two years and apply to CUNY within five years of graduation; attended an approved New York State program for General Equivalency Diploma, received a New York State-issued GED, and applied for attendance at CUNY within five years of receiving the GED; or were enrolled in CUNY in the fall 2001 semester and were paying the resident tuition rate then.
In addition, students without lawful immigration status must file an affidavit stating that they have filed an application to legalize their immigration status, or that they will file such an application as soon as they are eligible.
Anne Marie Scanlon, executive director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, said although the Center has no data on the number of undocumented Irish immigrant students in New York State, there are some.
“A lot of students come here on J-1 visas and don’t return,” she said. “Nine times out of 10 those that come here on scholarships are able to get sponsorship.”
Albany estimates that approximately 3,000 undocumented immigrants currently attend CUNY and SUNY institutions, with the majority, or roughly 2,800 of them in the CUNY system.