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Norwalk Student Backs Tuition Aid for Undocumented

Brien McMahon High School senior Gina Caputo wants her classmates to have the same opportunities for college that she does.  For Caputo, this includes the children of undocumented immigrants.

The Connecticut General Assembly is considering a bill that would grant in-state tuition for undocumented students. “They did not choose to come here. Many of them came to America when they were just months or weeks old,” says Caputo, who testified in front of the General Assembly’s Higher Education Committee last month. “You can’t blame them for what their parents did. Some kids don’t even find out that they are undocumented until they start the college process.”

Currently, undocumented students must pay out-of-state tuition at the University of Connecticut, Connecticut State Colleges and the state’s community colleges, which is three times more than in-state tuition. The legislation has the support of Gov. Dannel Malloy, the acting chancellor of the Connecticut State University System and the chancellor of the state’s community college system. Opponents are concerned the bill would decrease state revenue.

Caputo thinks the proposal makes for good public policy.  “It can only help us as a society to have an educated workforce. By just ignoring the students, we are not going to solve the issue.”

Caputo estimates there are anywhere from 100 to 300 undocumented students at McMahon. She singles out the case of her friend Diego Aguilar, who graduated as valedictorian from McMahon last year. Aguilar, an undocumented student, was accepted to the University of Connecticut, but could not afford to go.  He now attends Norwalk Community College at three times what a Norwalk student would pay.

“It just doesn’t make sense that someone who worked so hard academically is denied college,” she says. “It makes me so angry. We have to find a way to make it so this won’t happen to other students like him.”

Caputo, who is fluent in Spanish and conversant in Italian, plans to study linguistics at Sarah Lawrence College in the fall. As a member of McMahon’s Center for Youth Leadership, she's been active in immigrant issues. For example, she regularly passes out health information to day laborers at the Lowe Street bridge in South Norwalk.  She says a lot her friends are immigrants. “I remember looking around my lunch table in middle school. My friends were from countries like Ecuador and Pakistan.”

The bill has passed through the General Assembly's Higher Education Committee and next goes to the Appropriations Committee.

What do you think of this bill? Do you support in-state tuition for undocumented students?

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