Undocumented student loan bill passes senate

Bailey Tomlinson, Staff Reporter

Senate Bill (SB) 6561, which aims to create an undocumented student loan program, passed through the Senate on Feb. 18 and now must make it through the House of Representatives. 

The most recent version of the bill, called the second substitute version, states it “intends to increase access to those students who are ineligible for federal financial aid by creating a state-funded and state-administered student loan program.” The bill intends for the program to provide loans that are comparable to federal loans. It also intends to offer several options for repayment, making it easier on students who take them out.

Teagan Kimbro

Guillermo Rogel, executive director of the Washington Student Association (WSA), said students having to take out loans is not ideal, but for students who would not be able to pursue higher education without them the option should be there.

“That’s our number one priority,” ASCWU Vice President of Legislative Affairs Zackary Turner said. “Making sure our students can go to college.”

A 2020 WSA legislative agenda says under the current federal law, undocumented students cannot receive any federally funded financial aid. They can, however, receive state financial aid as long as they meet state residency requirements.

For a student to be eligible for the loan program, they would need to meet certain requirements, such as demonstrating financial need and not qualifying for federal aid due to citizenship status. These requirements may be subject to change in future versions of the bill as it’s still a work in progress.

“[SB 6561] is our way of providing our own form of financial aid,” Rogel said. “The federal government has no role in that.”

The bill received bipartisan support in the Senate, with six Republican senators voting in favor of it. These senators are King, Muzzall, O’Ban, Walsh, Warnick and Zeiger. 

“With recent threats to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, we subsequently see the presence and retention of our undocumented students under attack,” the WSA legislative agenda says. “With no clear indication from the federal government that DACA students will be protected, the WSA is advocating for a student loan financial aid program to specifically serve our undocumented graduate & undergraduate students in Washington State.” 

The bill is scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 26 and an executive session on Feb. 27. The House Committee is one of several steps it must still pass before it is able to be signed into law.

If passed, the bill will take effect July 1, 2021.

A resource guide for undocumented students attending CWU is in the process of being developed, Director of the Diversity and Equity Center Abby Chien said.