Lt. governor candidates discuss tuition rates

Texas lieutenant governor candidates squared off in the only debate of this election cycle for that position yesterday.

Texas Senators Dan Patrick (R) and Leticia Van de Putte (D) took a detour from the campaign trail to face each other in Austin.

Among the issues affecting Texans as a whole, including abortion rights and infrastructure, the two spoke up about how college tuition should be assessed to students based on students’ citizenship status. The bipartisan Texas Dream Act of 2001 states that non-United States citizens who have lived in Texas for at least three years and are seeking citizenship can take advantage of in-state tuition.

Moderator Ross Ramsey, executive editor of the Texas Tribune, asked Patrick whether a would-be student who has lived in Texas for three years and is seeking citizenship should be able to pay in-state tuition or be deported.

While Patrick did not answer the question directly, he said he felt the issue comes down to a matter of fairness.

“I surely empathize with the situation that students are brought here by others and who have done a great job of graduating from high school, that they would want in-state tuition,” Patrick said. “I think sometimes the public gets confused. We’re not saying they can’t go to college or they can’t go to community college or a four-year college. But it’s a question of fairness.”

Despite the law regarding tuition and not admission, Patrick brought up a question he posed on San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro during an immigration debate in April.

“[I asked] If there was only one seat left in a university, and two students had equal GPA, SAT and ACT scores, and the choice was between an American student… and someone who was not a legal citizen of our country, who would get the seat?” Patrick said. “I don’t know how [Van de Putte] would answer it, but it’s just a question of fairness… I will stand by the citizen to get that slot.”

Van de Putte helped author the bill when it passed in 2001, and stood behind its true meaning.

“I worked with… my Republican colleagues to form a plan to make sure that children who were brought here through no fault of their own would have the opportunity to pay the same in-state tuition as the people they graduated from high school with,” Van de Putte said. “Patrick hasn’t even read the bill. This is not about admissions. This is about what you pay in tuition at the registrars’ office. And this… is important for the workforce.”

Van de Putte said other Republican candidates for state-wide elections disagree with Patrick’s stance. However, Patrick defended his answer on admissions in response to the question on tuition.

“I have read the bill,” Patrick said. “At the University of Texas, where there are very few slots, it could come down to a student who is not a citizen and one who is. In terms of in-state tuition, it’s a matter of fairness again.”

The last day to register to vote is Monday, Oct. 6. The general election will be Nov. 4.

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