From FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) and https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=134733849408 (June 30, 2009). See the section in bold for how the bill benefits Microsoft and for Rep. Ross Hunter’s role in promoting it. Hunter also led the charge for tax breaks for Microsoft.

Under a new Washington State law, foreign guest workers — and their families who are in the United States — will be allowed to attend college by paying in-state tuition, even though the law does not extend that same benefit to American citizens who are from other states.

The law — which started as H.B. 1487 in the Washington State Legislature — was signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire on April 25 and will take effect on July 1. The new law permits foreign workers with certain work visas, including H-1B visas, to access in-state tuition benefits. The law reduces Washington’s in-state residency requirement from three years to one year for foreign workers and also eliminates the requirement that students must attend a Washington State high school to qualify for in-state tuition. The new rules also provide reduced tuition to family members of certain visa holders. (WA Bill Action, 2009 Session; Seattle Times, June 22, 2009; and Bellingham Herald, June 22, 2009).

Critics point out that the law could not have come at a worse time for Washingtonians. The law is expected to contribute to a loss of revenue for the state university system. Initial estimates predict that the University of Washington will lose $430,000 in tuition revenue and that Washington State University could lose approximately $215,000. (Id.). Beyond revenue loss, others have pointed out that the law also reduces the number of educational opportunities available to Washington State residents at a time when more people are looking to return to school to obtain advanced degrees.

Critics have dubbed the bill, which was proposed by a former Microsoft executive (State Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina)), the “Microsoft subsidy bill,” because the Seattle-based software company will garner the bulk of the benefit from the new law. Recognizing that this law is nothing more than a corporate welfare bill at the expense of state residents, State Rep. Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle) said: “We only allow X amount of [admission] slots for resident tuition rates and we are displacing those residents with H-1B visa holders, their families and dependents. Microsoft can well afford out-of-state tuition for its people.” (Id.).

At the same time, the new law discriminates against American citizens because it does not extend in-state tuition benefits to U.S. citizens living outside of Washington State. Accordingly, under the bill, an H-1B visa holder could send a family member to a state university for a total annual cost of $7,677 during the next academic year, compared to the annual out-of-state tuition cost of $24,352 that an out-of-state American citizen would be forced to pay.

Washington State’s move to reduce college costs for foreign born students comes on the heels of a recent New York Times article which concluded that American college students will have a harder time paying for college this coming school year. According to The Times, “Students looking for college scholarships are going to have a harder time this year as providers, hammered by falling investment returns and declining philanthropic support.” (New York Times, June 26, 2009). The current economic climate has “led foundations, corporations, state governments and colleges themselves to reduce their support of providers of scholarships, and in recent months programs have been reduced or canceled outright. The cuts come as economic conditions make it harder for families to pay for college and as more unemployed people look for financing for retraining.” (Id.).