Foreign Students’ UH Tuition Break

The state Legislature is hard at work. There’s not a lot to show for all the long hours just yet, but that doesn’t mean legislators are not thinking about helping all the taxpayers of Hawaii.

There are about 4,000 proposals before the Legislature every session. If they are lucky, about 40 or 50 may make it through the process. As we have explained here before, it is a daunting task, with one committee hearing after another. Because the legislators can’t propose bills for every taxpayer’s whim, you have to wonder how they decide which requests to honor.

To offer some proof that they try to help every one of their constituents, there’s a bill making its way through the Big Square Building on South Beretania Street, HB 1674, Relating to the University of Hawaii.

Right now, Hawaii residents get a break in University of Hawaii tuition. It’s simple: If you pay taxes and are a resident of Hawaii, you don’t have to pay nonresident tuition and a fee differential.

But the Legislature has found that some students who do not hold a lawful immigration status encounter extreme hardship attending public institutions of higher education in the state, as they must pay a nonresident tuition and fee differential and are not eligible for financial assistance. HB 1674 would change all that. It would create a new kind of student, a resident noncitizen.

A “resident noncitizen” is an individual domiciled in the state who does not have a lawful immigration status.

Of course, there would be exceptions.

It has been a long practice at the university to enter into agreements with government and university officials in other states or countries to provide reciprocal waivers of the nonresident tuition fee differential and allow their students to apply for financial aid. For residents of Hawaii, this is a good deal because some of the nonresident tuition and fee differentials for Mainland colleges are very expensive.

The bill also mandates that the resident noncitizen file an affidavit with the university stating that the student has filed an application to legalize his or her immigration status, or will file such application as soon the student is able to do so. This is all legal under the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, which gives states the authority of awarding public benefits to residents who do not have lawful immigration status.

It’s easy to see how this political philosophy, while it may be beneficial to the university and the state, to make it fair, it is something every parent should know about.