Access to higher education just got a little easier in Oregon—and a lot more fair. After a decade of work, undocumented students in Oregon will now qualify for in-state tuition with the passage on March 21 of House Bill 2787, the Tuition Equity Bill. Tuition Equity grants in-state tuition to students who have attended school in Oregon for at least three years and graduated from an Oregon high school, regardless of immigration status.
Tuition Equity is a critical component in the struggle for equal and fair treatment under the law. It is a serious issue not only for immigrant communities but for the LGBTQ community too. As we know all too well, LGBTQ students are often stigmatized because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, often lacking critical family, financial, and community support. Too often individuals of great promise give up because they do not believe success is possible and lack the resources to pursue their career dreams.
LGBTQ and immigrant communities both know what it’s like to live under laws that say we are less human, to feel unprotected and unsafe because of policies that discount them from fundamental components of the human experience like education. Through our Scholarship Program, Pride Foundation sees first-hand how students have been isolated from their families, cut off from resources, bullied at school, as well as the dire consequences that come from that isolation. For LGBTQ immigrant youth these problems and tensions are greatly exacerbated.
CAUSA, Oregon’s immigrant advocacy organization, has worked tirelessly across identities and sectors to ensure the successful passing of House Bill 2787.
“For CAUSA it is about fully integrating the LGBTQ community in everything we do—from dedicating a staff member who works specifically with the community, to trainings and cross collaborations, which are a fundamental aspect of the work around tuition equity,” said CAUSA staff, Reyna Lopez, about their approach to intersectional work.
Additionally, when the historic vote was made, constituents from the LGBTQ community were invited, as well as many other Pride Foundation grantees: Rural Organizing Project, Basic Rights Oregon, and the American Civil Liberties Union to name a few.
While this is a huge victory for Oregon—it joins 13 other states that have tuition equity laws in place—there is still much work to be done. CAUSA is hopeful and believes that this win will continue to increase access to basic rights here in Oregon as well as at the federal level.
In the meantime, the immigrant, LGBTQ, and allied communities continue to move the work of our collective struggles forward with the hope that our dreams become reality. The victory of HB 2787 is one more step in the direction for full equality.
This year marks the 20th Anniversary of Pride Foundation’s Scholarship Program. To learn more about the program visit www.pridefoundation.org. Jett is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Oregon. Email Jett.