Legislators Say They Erred, Urge Repeal of Foreign Tuition Law
BOSTON (AP) _ A legislative committee voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend repealing a unique law that raises tuition for foreign students attending state colleges.
One after another, lawmakers testified before the joint legislative Education Committee that they were mistaken when they voted for the measure. ″I’m personally embarassed by (the law) and I have no excuses for not being more carefully aware of what was going on,″ said Sen. John Olver of Amherst, a former college professor.
The legislators called for repeal of the measure most of them voted for this summer, saying it will tarnish the state’s reputation as a progressive education leader.
The author of the law, Rep. Roger Tougas, vowed to fight the committee recommendation on the House floor.
″We’ll see how many people worry more about the rest of the world than over Massachusetts kids,″ he said.
The bill became law July 15, just before the summer recess. Tougas, who had failed to get the bill through via the normal legislative process, tacked it onto the state’s supplementary budget.
The budget was approved with little discussion on the tuition measure, and Tougas’ amendment was signed into law by Gov. Michael S. Dukakis.
Dukakis spokesman Susan Kaplan said the governor’s position remains unchanged.
″Those foreign students who need tuition assistance can apply for it,″ she said. ″Foreign students who do have the ability to pay the full tuition should do so.″
Tougas said taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize the tuition of foreign students, who take up spaces that otherwise would be filled by state residents. Chancellor of Higher Education Franklyn Jenifer disagreed, saying there are empty seats in state colleges and that the system earns needed income from foreigners.
Under the new tuition structure, foreign students will pay ″full cost″ tuition. Currently, they pay the same subsidized rate as out-of-state students. Foreign freshmen enrolling in the University of Massachusetts next fall, for example, would pay $6,984 per year compared with $4,320 for out-of- state students and $1,296 for state residents.
When legislators realized what they had done, they approved a series of amendments exempting foreign graduate students and anyone whose country has a reciprocal agreement welcoming American students.
″If the feeling of the committee is reflective of the Legislature, I’d have to predict it would probably succeed,″ said Rep. Nicholas Paleologos, co-chairman of the panel.
The committee recommendation goes first to the Senate floor for debate, but no hearing date is scheduled.