HARTFORD – Connecticut’s education unions and the Connecticut AFL-CIO stood shoulder-to-shoulder with undocumented immigrant students at the Legislative Office Building on April 26, 2017, to unite behind two bills – Senate Bill 17 and House Bill 7000.
CSU-AAUP member and ECSU professor Dr. William Lugo, pictured above at the microphone, spoke in support of the bills at the press conference.
These bills allow all Connecticut in-state resident students who contribute to the institutional aid fund to have access regardless of their immigration status. Having passed out of committee and now waiting to be called for a vote, the bills have no fiscal note and would cost nothing to taxpayers or Connecticut’s public colleges and universities.
Institutional aid is comprised of student-generated funds that colleges set aside from tuition revenue for use as need-based aid to support students. Under current law, undocumented students are ineligible for financial aid despite paying into the fund with their tuition dollars.
The state’s public universities and colleges have already testified in support of expanding aide to undocumented students. Along with support from administration, faculty and staff at the state universities also support increased access to financial aid for all students.
“Research shows that when a community’s residents obtain higher education, those communities enjoy greater employment, higher incomes, lower crime rates, lower entitlement spending and lower disability rates,” said Elena Tapia, President of CSU-AAUP, which represents professors in the CT State University system. “Access to affordable and quality public higher education is a common good and a path to a more prosperous future not only for students but also for Connecticut.”
Professors at UConn agreed. Diana Rios, UConn-AAUP President, said her members believe strongly that “it is in the best interest of our country and state to encourage access to education resources so that all segments of society may be lifted upwards.”
The bill even received backing of the state’s largest labor organization – the AFL-CIO. “It is extremely challenging, if not impossible, for undocumented students to afford college as options for financial aid are very limited,” said Lori J. Pelletier, President of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, which represents over 220,000 workers in the state. “All public universities in the state set a portion of tuition revenue aside to assist students with financial need. Nonetheless, because of current law, undocumented students have to contribute to this fund but are barred from accessing it. This is fundamentally unfair and needs to change this year.”
UAW Region 9A Director Julie Kushner, who represents graduate Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants at the University of Connecticut, has worked extensively with Connecticut Students for a Dream, which is the lead advocate on this issue. “If our lawmakers do not pass this legislation, they are allowing the undocumented students to subsidize institutional financial aid for other students,” said Kushner. “It is grossly unfair and unjust, and our union will do everything it can to promote the passage of this legislation.”
The state’s education unions vowed to put their support behind this effort and finally achieve passage of this legislation after a demanding three-year fight.