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Monday, February 18, 2013 - Page updated at 03:30 p.m.

Editorial: Expand college aid to children of immigrants

THE Legislature should broaden access to higher education for Washington students brought illegally to the United States as children through no fault of their own. It is an investment in our economic future.

Ensuring these students have access to state financial aid, such as the State Need Grant and the College Bound program, is the intent of Senate Bill 5655 and House Bill 1817.

As Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, the author of one of the bills, puts it: “These students grew up in Washington towns, succeeded in Washington schools, paid Washington taxes and want to be part of Washington’s future. We can give them the same chance that their high-school classmates have by opening the door to our state financial aid programs.”

A decade ago, the Legislature allowed these students to qualify for in-state tuition rates. The next step is financial aid for low-income students.

Washingtonschools educate these kids. Rather than punish children for their parents’ decision, lawmakers should support policies that help them get an education and become productive contributors to our economy.

Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, should rethink her decision not to hold hearings on SB 5655 in the Senate Higher Education Committee.

Bailey and some other GOP lawmakers are concerned about added pressure to our state’s financial-aid system. About 75,000 Washington college students received a State Need Grant last year, but 32,000 qualified students were turned away because of a lack of money. Expanding access could add 800 to the waiting list, according to a Times story based on figures from the Latino/a Educational Achievement Project.

The policy ramifications and fiscal impacts of these proposals offer more reason to hold committee hearings and allow lawmakers to vote on a much-needed shift in policy.

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