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Proposed Plan Would Provide Financial Aid To Illegal Immigrants

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The competition among in-state students to get into North Carolina's colleges and unversities is already stiff. Now Congress is looking at a bill that would also help illegal immigrants qualify for in-state tuition.

Every year, about 50,000 undocumented foreign students graduate from U.S. high schools. Most cannot go to college because the law prohibits them from receiving financial aid.

"Many of these children were brought here by desperate parents fleeing war, persecution, hunger. The children didn't choose to break any laws," said Maria Teresa Palmer of the State Board of Education.

A proposed bill called the Dream Act could change that. Last week, a Senate Committe approved the bill, which would make it easier for children who have lived in this country and stayed in school to become lawful, permanent residents.

The bill would also require states to charge them in-state tuition fees.

"I am very encouraged by this legislation because I think it will provide an incentive for our students and put their dreams within their reach," said Mary Ann Hardabeck, principal at Chapel Hill High School.

A senator from Arizona and a senator from Alabama have raised some concerns about the proposed legislation. They said it would create an incentive for immigrants to come into the country illegally. Educators said there has to be an incentive for those students that work hard to get good grades.

The proposed legislation would omit anyone who did not live in the United States at least five years prior to the law being enacted.