Higher Education legal residency bill passes Oklahoma state Senate
by Billie Rodely
A bill changing resident tuition eligibility requirements for the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education is on its way to the House after passing the Senate Wednesday (March 16) on a 32-13 vote.
SB 683, authored by Sen. Anthony Sykes, a Moore Republican, would require proof that a student is in the United States (and Oklahoma) legally to qualify for scholarships, financial aid, or resident tuition. Currently, language in eligibility requirements does allow students who cannot produce valid documentation of U.S. nationality or immigration status to receive scholarships, financial aid, and even resident tuition.
During floor debate, Sen. Jim Reynolds, an Oklahoma City Republican, stated he was not surprised the State Regents are on record against SB 683 because “They never turn down a dollar.”
Examples of illegal enrollees at Oklahoma institutions of higher learning have been revealed in news reports in the state, as the issue of illegal immigration has become a mainstream topic of discussion and documentation.
The vote to adopt was mostly along party lines with a couple of exceptions.
Harry Coates, a Seminole Republican, debated against the bill and was the lone Republican voting “Nay.” Sen. John Sparks, a Norman Democrat, was the only Democrat to vote for passage of the measure.
Three Senators did not vote. Democrats Tom Adelson of Tulsa, Tom Ivester of Sayer and Constance Johnson were excused from votes Wednesday.