Sedgwick County Commission proposal would cut in-state tuition for ‘dreamers’


WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – College students who are undocumented foreign nationals may not be able to pay in-state tuition much longer if the State of Kansas passes a proposal from Sedgwick County.

That proposal would affect undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors. Currently, they’re allowed to pay in-state college tuition under a policy started by President Barack Obama. Now, the Sedgwick County Commission wants the state to put a stop to it.

But, an organization at Wichita State University is fighting to protect those students.

For many such students, like Kevin Lopez who came to the U.S. from Nicaragua as a toddler, the proposal would be detrimental to his future. For Kevin, getting a college education was only a dream because of his immigration status. Now, it’s a reality that soon could be taken away.

“When I was about four, my mother brought me to the United States,” said Lopez. “We were escaping a lot of ugly things from my home country.”

Lopez doesn’t remember coming to the U.S.  It wasn’t until he was eight years old when his mother told him the full story of their arrival in America, that they’d come to the U.S. illegally. When he started applying to college, he learned the hard way he wasn’t eligible for financial aid.

“I found out that I wasn’t eligible for any of those scholarships because of my status,” Lopez said.

WSU awarded Kevin a scholarship, and told him he qualified for in-state tuition, a dream come true for this “dreamer.”

“I was about to give up hope until Wichita State awarded me a scholarship to attend here, and that really saved my life,” Lopez said.

A Kansas house bill that passed in 2004 allows “DACA” students, as they’re called, who graduated from Kansas high schools, the option to pay in-state tuition for Kansas universities.

“We’re not the state legislature, but we do have power,” said WSU Student Government Association President Joseph Shepard, who feels strongly about this issue.

This past summer, Sedgwick County Commissioners passed a recommendation to the state to remove in-state residency from undocumented students.

“It will impact the institution financially, with our recruitment, with our retention, and we don’t want that,” Shepard said.

Shepherd believes dreamer students shouldn’t be punished for their parents coming to the U.S. illegally. He and others are doing everything they can to stop the county commission proposal from getting state approval.

“We have an obligation to advocate for those students who need us to be that voice because they don’t have a seat at the table,” Shepard said.

At this time, there are o specifics about the total number of students who would be affected in Kansas. That’s because such information is not available to the public.

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