By Alexandra Amarotico: More students could contribute toward lowering tuition rates and fees here at Southern Oregon University, a university that is receiving huge budget cuts next year and lacks the attendance increases to compensate for them.

Recently, The Oregon House Education Committee held a hearing on HB 2939, also known as Tuition Equity. If passed, Tuition Equity would grant in-state tuition to any eligible student as long as they: 1) Have attended an Oregon high school for three or more years, 2) Have graduated from an Oregon high school, 3) Are admitted to an Oregon university and 4) Are working toward residency if they are not already United States residents.

This policy would provide more Oregon students with the opportunity to attend college in Oregon. More students could contribute toward lowering tuition rates and fees here at Southern Oregon University, a university that is receiving huge budget cuts next year and lacks the attendance increases to compensate for them.

Currently, Oregon is facing one of the hardest and most uncertain financial futures in its history. Why then are we denying a number of its citizens access to in-state college tuition rates? Currently in Oregon, it is possible for an Oregonian who has been enrolled in K-12 education their entire life to be denied the opportunity to pay in-state tuition rates because of the tax documentation status of their parents. The extreme cost of out-of-state tuition prices many Oregon students out of the opportunity to attend Oregon public schools of higher education. In turn, this loss of students loses Oregon the opportunity to have more knowledgeable and bright citizens giving back to the state.

The children of immigrants who are born in the United States, regardless of their parents' documentation status, are natural born American citizens. According to USA Today (April 14, 2009) there are approximately 4 million of these children living throughout the United States. The American-born students with immigrant parents are Oregon citizens in every sense of the law, and yet they will need to pay two or three times more than their peers in order to receive a college degree in our state.

For many, this cost is impossible to afford and causes these students to not be able to attend university. This does not only harm the student's future; it harms the future of Oregon as well. Oregon is losing its federally mandated investment in these students' K-12 educations by not allowing them the college degrees that will aid Oregon's economy in the future.

Oregon needs to pass HB 2939 so we may increase access to higher education and get Oregon back on track.

Alexandra Amarotico is the director of communications for the Associated Students of Southern Oregon University.