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N.H. considers bill on immigrant tuition

CONCORD, N.H. — University System of New Hampshire college students who entered the United States illegally would get in-state tuition if they meet certain requirements under a bill to be voted on by the House this month.

The students would have to be a graduate of a high school in the state or have earned a New Hampshire high school equivalency certificate. They would have had to attend a state high school for three years before graduating or receiving an equivalency certificate and have met all the other criteria for in-state rates.

The students would also be required to apply for legal residency if they have not already done so and file a copy of the application with the university system.

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Opponents argue it is not fair for out-of-state students to pay higher tuition than students in the country illegally. In-state tuition at the University of New Hampshire is $13,670 this year, compared with $26,390 for a nonresident. At Keene State College and Plymouth State University, the in-state rate is $10,410 compared with more than $17,000 for out-of-state students.

The bill would modify a law passed in 2012 that took effect last year, requiring students receiving in-state tuition to file an affidavit attesting that they are legal residents of the United States. The law was passed after much debate over whether young people living illegally in New Hampshire and attending its secondary schools deserved the same financial break as legal residents.

The bill would affect fewer than 100 students, estimated Eva Castillo-Turgeon, a New Hampshire-based advocate with the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Center. Students who are not legal residents do not qualify for aid programs that help offset the high cost of attending college, but might be able to more easily afford to go if they get a break in tuition, she said.

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‘‘These children were raised here,’’ she said. “These children embraced our principles, our values.”

Fifteen states allow students who have lived illegally in the United States for several years to become eligible for in-state tuition if they meet certain criteria, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The federal Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act of 1996 sought to prohibit states from providing the in-state benefit to people who live in the United States illegally unless a citizen is eligible for the same benefit, but Conference of State Legislatures says there is disagreement over what the provision means.

Immigration legislation has been stalled in Congress that would help young immigrants attend college who were brought into the country illegally by their parents.