Such efforts seem to be gaining momentum, though the bipartisan bill being discussed this week resides in the U.S. Senate, controlled by Democrats. How such a bill would pass in the conservative-led House is undetermined at this early data.
USF's Judy Genshaft, Eric Barron of Florida State University, Eduardo Padrón of Miami-Dade College, and Donna E. Shalala of the University of Miami all emphasized how crucial it was for the U.S. economy to keep talented students in the country after graduation, or give them the opportunity to attend higher education.
Genshaft said it was important for the government to grant Visas to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) graduates, adding that there are about 120,000 computer engineering jobs available each year in the U.S., but only 40,000 college graduates with a computer science degree.
"It breaks my heart every time when I see young people who are extremely bright who are not able to reach college classes because their immigration status makes it prohibitive for them to attend," said Padrón, alluding to the fact that such students must pay the same tuition as foreign students. "We need to modernize this for economic reasons more than anything," he said.
Shalala said that such reform efforts might be comprehensive in nature.
"It can't just be the Dream Act," she said, referring to the proposed legislation that would provide undocumented teenagers the ability to be eligible for a conditional path to citizenship, which would require the completion of a college degree or two years of military service.
"I think we get one shot at this," Shalala warned. "This is the year for comprehensive reform that in many ways will define us as a nation and define our character."