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State representative hopefuls split on governor’s tuition plan

In the aftermath of Governor Deval Patrick’s announcement Thursday of plans to offer illegal immigrants in-state tuition at state colleges and universities, local politicians remain split on the issue.Patrick believes it is unfair to punish students whose parents did not take the necessary steps to become citizens by not affording them the same tuition as legal Massachusetts residents. But opponents argue these residents are considered “illegal” for a reason, and taxpayers should not have to fit the bill for their education when legal residents experience some of the same struggles.Tuition rates are considerably lower at state colleges for in-state residents, which often prevent these undocumented students from enrolling in the schools and finding a career. For example, an illegal immigrant living in Lynn would pay $353 per credit at North Shore Community College, as opposed to $121 per credit that a legal resident would pay.The disparity is even higher at Salem State College, where in-state residents pay $257.92 per credit compared to $513.75 for those who live out of state.Under Patrick’s plan, undocumented students who graduate from high school would be considered Massachusetts residents while enrolling, which he believes will provide those students the opportunity to complete their education, become citizens and enter the workforce in the commonwealth.There are five candidates jockeying for the 8th Essex District state representative seat vacated by Douglas Petersen and several were outspoken on their views regarding this issue.Marblehead Democrat Lori Ehrlich said she agrees with Patrick’s proposal to allow in-state tuition rates for illegal students.”I don’t believe in punching the children for the parents being undocumented,” she said. “As long as the child is on a path to citizenship and has attended (state) public schools I have no problem with them getting the in-state tuition rate. “Marblehead Republican John Blaisdell vehemently disagreed with Ehrlich.”Put the illegal aspect and politics aside,” he said, “This is going to cost money. Chapter 70 is a major point in this campaign – to properly fund schools we need money. We can’t even fund our public schools. We are already paying to educate illegals and now we want to fund their college tuition out of taxpayer dollars. We cannot do that.”Marblehead Republican Tanya DeGenova is also opposed to Patrick’s proposal.”I am a first generation immigrant but I came here legally,” she said. “We need to embrace all legal newcomers. But those living in the shadows and not paying taxes have no rights to benefits from our state.”Attempts to reach Democrat Cesar A. Archilla of Swampscott and Marblehead resident Mark Barry, an independent, were unsuccessful on Friday afternoon.In addition, phone calls placed to Democratic Sen. Thomas McGee and Democratic State Reps Steven Walsh, Robert Fennel and Mark Falzone were not returned.

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