Education

Immigrant Tuition Battle Expands to Virginia Courts

December 18, 2013

Giancarla Rojas is not an American citizen, but she has an American dream. The Falls Church resident, whose parents brought her here illegally from Bolivia as a child, has worked doggedly to become the first in her family to attend a four-year college.

She won a reprieve to stay in this country under an Obama administration initiative, maintains a 3.8 grade-point average at a community college and has a résumé packed with volunteer work, but George Mason University is still out of reach.

The 19-year-old cannot afford the out-of-state tuition of $29,000 a year Virginia charges people with her immigration status, so she and six other students filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Arlington County Circuit Court arguing that they should be able to pay the same lower rates as other longtime Virginia residents.

The lawsuit marks the latest flash point in a heated national debate over whether to grant the benefit to children brought here illegally. Maryland became one of at least 17 states to do so last year after vigorous opposition forced a referendum on a plan to grant in-state tuition discounts to undocumented college students. The issue is also the subject of litigation in Georgia and Arizona.

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