Press Release: Immigrant students rally at Vermont State House in support of higher education bill

 “Education Equity for Immigrant Students” proposal awaits Governor’s signature

Montpelier, VT: Lawmakers and immigrant community members rallied today at the Vermont State House to celebrate the passage of the “Education Equity for Immigrant Students” proposal by the legislature and to call on Governor Scott to sign the bill into law. The press conference was livestreamed and is available for viewing.

Once enacted, the bill will ensure that all Vermont residents, regardless of immigration status, have access to in-state tuition rates and need-based financial aid when attending public colleges and universities in the state. The proposal, originally introduced as H.817, was later combined with another education-related bill (S.191) and passed overwhelmingly by both houses. The bill was transmitted to the Governor on May 24th and awaits his signature.

Representative Leonora Dodge (Chittenden-23), one of the proposal’s principal sponsors, spoke: “S.191 is a reminder that there are young people in our state that grew up here, attended Vermont schools, or came as teenagers to work on dairy farms, or came seeking asylum due to violence in their country of origin. They call Vermont home, and we are so lucky to have them.”

Following Representative Dodge, Heidy Perez Alfaro, an 11th grader at Milton High School, celebrated the bill’s pending enactment: “I am here on behalf of all those students who had to end their education after high school and cut short their dreams. With this law, they will be able to go to college, study for a profession, and help others.”

The final speaker of the press conference was Olga Cruz, a dairy worker and member of Migrant Justice. “When I got my GED three years ago and looked into continuing my studies, I was shocked by the cost and knew I would never be able to afford college without help. With this new law, higher education becomes a possibility for me and many others.”

While unable to attend the press conference, Elizabeth Mauch, Chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges System, provided the following statement: “The Vermont State Colleges System is in strong support of S.191. This bill enshrines in state statute existing policy at the VSC to promote affordability in higher education by ensuring all Vermont residents, regardless of immigration status, can access in-state tuition at our member institutions. I am grateful to all of those who got this bill over the finish line, in service of our shared goal of advancing educational equity.”

The “Education Equity for Immigrant Students” proposal was initiated by Vermont-based non-profit Migrant Justice founded and led by immigrant farmworkers. Many advocated for the bill’s passage, including the Vermont Human Rights Commission, the Center for Justice Reform of the Vermont Law and Graduate School, Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, Spectrum Youth and Family Services, Chittenden Asylum Seekers Assistance Network, Central Vermont Refugee Action Network, Bridge to Rutland, and Community Asylum Seekers Project. The proposal also received support from Vermont State Colleges, University of Vermont, and the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation.

If passed, the bill will take effect on July 1st, 2025