By Jennifer Calfas, Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 19, 2013
After more than a year of holding protests in support of in-state tuition equality for undocumented students, the Coalition for Tuition Equality has submitted a report to the University Board of Regents detailing the issue.
The report includes a series of pros and cons on granting undocumented students in-state tuition benefits, according to Public Policy senior Kevin Mersol-Barg, the founder of CTE.
University Provost Phil Hanlon recommended assembling a task force to create the report in April 2012 in response to CTE’s previous efforts. The task force includes Donica Varner, University associate general counsel; Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs; International Center Director John Greisberger; and three students including Mersol-Barg, who is currently a Daily columnist.
Although Mersol-Barg said he could not reveal the details of the report until the regents have reviewed it, he said the task force met on a regular basis “with a very comprehensive approach” to research the issue and discuss their findings. He added that he was impressed with how committed University administrators have been in working on the issue.
In November, Mersol-Barg and the task force traveled to California on an University-funded trip to discuss the steps needed to produce a more accessible environment for undocumented students with administrators from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, Los Angeles.
While California is one of 12 states to enact state provisions that allow institutions of higher education to give benefits to undocumented individuals, the state of Michigan permit these benefits and governs under a 1996 law.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily in January, University President Mary Sue Coleman said the state's laws hinder the University’s ability to grant tuition equality.
“I would love to have the same circumstances here, but we don’t,” Coleman said. “At the same time, I want the issue of undocumented students to be solved.”
Mersol-Barg said he predicts the regents will discuss the report in a private setting and not at the board’s monthly meeting Thursday. He added that two speakers from the group will speak in the public comments portion of the meeting, but there will not be a protest like the one they held in December.
“I understand that the administration has to be very deliberate with the steps they take, and often it’s a slower process than we would like, but there has been a great urgency regarding this matter because every day that passes is another day where an undocumented student has to forgo their dreams of a University of Michigan education,” Mersol-Barg said.
In the group’s most recent protest Monday, about 60 students gathered in front of the Fleming Administration Building in support of tuition equality.
While the University faces a number of legal hurdles and complications in permitting tuition equality, protester Javier Contreras, a senior at Skyline High School and an undocumented student awaiting admission to the University, said he believes their protests will amount to progress.
“There have been times when I feel like all the work I’ve been doing isn’t really worth it, but as long as there’s a small chance of reform, you have to be optimistic and just hope for the best.”