Law Gives Foreign Workers Break On In-State Tuition

Law gives foreign workers break on in-state tuition

The Associated Press, June 23, 2009

A law that takes effect July 1 in Washington will extend in-state college tuition rates to foreign professionals, their spouses and children.

The Seattle Times reported that some lawmakers called it the Microsoft subsidy bill because they say the software company and its workers could afford to pay the higher tuition rates. It helps foreign professionals in the country on temporary work visas, such as the H-1B.

The sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, said employers in his district sought the break as a job recruiting tool. The Times said Microsoft Corp. has thousands of workers who might qualify.

Lydia Tamez, associate general counsel and director of global migration at Microsoft, said it would allow Washington to attract and keep talented foreign professionals and to compete with other states, including Oregon, that already offer tuition breaks to foreign workers.

Microsoft said spouses of the H-1B visa holders often cannot work legally in the U.S., leaving the costs of college classes or pursuing a college degree to be borne on a single income.

These are people who are here lawfully, and are going to be here for a long period of time, Tamez said.

Nonresidents pay about three times as much as in-state tuition. An analysis concluded the University of Washington would lose about $430,000 a year in the higher tuition rates and more as tuition increases, and Washington State University would miss out on about $215,000.

Rep. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, opposed the measure, calling it unfair to resident students at a time when the state is making it more difficult for everyone to afford school in the state.

Its a diversion of limited resources, Hasegawa said.

The new law also reduces from three years to one year the time a person must first live in the state to get in-state tuition.