UofM leaders backing immigrant tuition program

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - The top two officials at the University of Memphis are backing a plan to allow people without legal U.S. residency to pay in-state tuition rates at the school.

Interim President Brad Martin told The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/1mYsM27 ) that many successful high school graduates lack access to higher education.

Martin and Provost David Rudd are backing plans to bolster U of M enrollment and retention by abolishing out-of-state tuition, and by enabling successful students without legal U.S. residency who live in Tennessee to pay in-state tuition rates.

“We think there are a lot of successful, hard-working high school graduates who do not have access to higher education,” Martin said. “We have been thinking about what we can do to serve that population, and we think it is very important.”

Two bills working their way through legislative committees in Nashville would give students without legal U.S. residency who have lived in Tennessee five years access to in-state tuition.

Martin sent a letter to members of the legislature Wednesday where the bills are pending review.

Martin, who was a state representative from 1973 through 1982, also wrote that he’s prepared to dig into his own pocket to assist students without legal U.S. residency who are not eligible for student loans and Hope scholarships. Martin pledged to fund 25 scholarships which will mirror the Hope requirements.

“My sense is that there are others who would be willing to join me in such a scholarship plan,” Martin said.

It’s unclear exactly how many local students without legal U.S. residency might qualify for in-state tuition. The Brookings Institution reported that 4,799 young people in Tennessee applied for deferred action between Aug. 15, 2012, and March 22, 2013. Of those, 78 percent were from Mexico.

President Barack Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to allow immigrants without legal U.S. residency who were brought unlawfully as children or who are now on an expired visa to remain in the U.S. to attend school and to work without prosecution for two years. The program does not provide lawful status or a permanent path to citizenship.

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Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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