April might seem a little early for a graduation ceremony, but there I was handing out mock diplomas on the steps of the Texas Capitol surrounded by bright-eyed students in caps and gowns. This pretend ceremony had a very real message: Texas should continue to allow immigrant students who are Texas residents and non-citizens to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities.
I am proud that Texas was the first state to recognize the value of helping all our students pursue a college education, a career, and a pathway to becoming productive, engaged citizens. A bipartisan coalition supported by then-Governor Rick Perry passed the “Texas Dream Act” in 2001. The young people who are able to afford college because of this important law embody the pioneering spirit of Texas – working hard to overcome personal hardships, helping their families and communities, and building a better society.
But nothing is sacred in the Texas Legislature these days, and SB1819 would repeal the current in-state tuition law. I joined educators, the business community, faith leaders and many others who testified in support of the Texas Dream Act. We stayed up until 2 am at the Senate subcommittee hearing to hear hundreds of “Dreamers” tell their powerful stories. With so many diverse allies opposing repeal, we are hopeful that we can stop this bad bill.
CPPP has been busy advocating for other policies to ensure that all Texans have the chance to attend college and pursue a career. Our research discovered that Texas’ admirable work study program is placing students in jobs only on campuses, rather than connecting them to employers out in the community that could help put students on a career path. We testified in support of a bill to study ways of connecting more employers to eager Texas student-workers. And just this week we published a new report on Keeping College Within Reach: How Texas Can Move More Low-Income and Adult Students Through College.
On the other side of the Capitol this month, CPPP was urging lawmakers to consider more policy changes that would expand economic opportunity in our state. As Texans we pride ourselves on our work ethic and self-sufficiency. But too many Texans and their families work full-time – even two jobs – and still don’t earn enough to support their families. CPPP released a new report arguing for a higher minimum wage in Texas and testified on the economic value a boost would provide to the state.
From public education to college, job training and a career path, CPPP is working to make Texas the best state for hard-working people and their families. Entering the final month of the Legislative session, the nights will be long, the debates more contentious and our work together even more critical.