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Proposal opens up State Need Grant

Wed., Feb. 6, 2013

Some immigrants would be eligible for college aid

OLYMPIA –Young adults who came to the United States with their parents as children and were raised and educated here would be eligible for some state college aid under a proposal announced Tuesday by Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle.

What’s being dubbed the Washington State DREAM Act would open up the State Need Grant and College Bound Scholarship programs to high school graduates who are undocumented residents.

Those programs already have long waiting lines; the State Need Grant last year had 32,000 applicants who couldn’t get aid because the program ran out of money. Supporters estimate the proposal would add between 400 and 800 students to the pool of eligible recipients for such grants.

Murray said he will propose a tax on capital gains earnings for upper-income Washington residents to help pay the cost of this and other education programs in the state.

“It’s a perfect issue for a bipartisan attempt to run a bipartisan Senate,” said Murray, the Senate minority leader, in an obvious dig at the coalition majority that consists of the chamber’s 23 Republicans and two disaffected Democrats.

Any tax increase would be controversial by itself, but the Senate also has legislation proposed by Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, to cancel in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant students attending a public university. The Legislature changed state law in 2011 to allow in-state tuition for students who aren’t documented citizens but have lived in the state long enough to attend school and graduate, and Benton’s proposal would change it back.

Benton’s bill has not been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Higher Education Committee and Murray’s isn’t even in written form yet, but either one could prompt a legislative fight over legal and illegal immigration.

Both bills involve what are being called “deferred action” residents, a reference to President Barack Obama’s orders to defer prosecution or deportation of long-term residents who came to the country illegally but are otherwise obeying laws and contributing to their communities.

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