Undocumented Student Tuition: State Action
Allow In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students
Currently, 17 states have provisions allowing in-state tution rates for undocumented students. Fourteen states provide these provisions through state legislation—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington. Two states—Oklahoma and Rhode Island— allow in-state tuition rates to undocumented students through Board of Regents decisions.
California and Texas were the first states to enact legislation in 2001. In 2002, New York and Utah passed similar legislation. During the 2003 and 2004 legislative sessions, Washington, Oklahoma, Illinois and Kansas all passed such laws. Oklahoma has since amended its law, leaving granting of in-state tuition rates to undocumented students up to the Oklahoma Board of Regents. The Board of Regents currently still allows undocumented students, who meet Oklahoma's original statutory requirements, to receive in-state tuition. In 2005 and 2006, New Mexico and Nebraska signed undocumented student tuition legislation into law, and Wisconsin enacted a similar law in 2009, but then revoked that law in 2011. Maryland's governor signed a law in May 2011 allowing undocumented students meeting the specified requirements to pay in-state tuition at community colleges only. Also in 2011, Connecticut enacted a law allowing in-state tuition for undocumented students. In 2013, four states, Colorado, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Oregon enacted laws allowing in-state tuition for undocumented students.
The states that have passed laws to allow undocumented students to receive in-state tuition delineate requirements for eligibility. In general, students must live in state and attend high school for a specified period (1-4 years), and graduate or receive their GED. Students must be accepted to a public college or university, and must sign an affidavit stating their intention to file for legal immigration status. Only 3 states—California, New Mexico and Texas—currently allow undocumented students to receive state financial aid. Washington state passed legislation in February 2014 to allow undocumented students access to state financial aid. The legislation is awaiting the Governor's signature.
Prohibit In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students
Three states--Arizona, Georgia, and Indiana--bar undocumented students from receiving in-state tuition rates. In 2006, Arizona citizens passed Proposition 300, which prohibits undocumented students from qualifying for in-state tuition rates and any type of state financial aid. In 2008, the state legislatures in Colorado and Georgia passed bills that ban undocumented students from receiving in-state tuition rates. In 2013, Colorado repealed the ban and passed legislation allowing for in-state tuition rates for undocumented students. Also in 2008, South Carolina, in legislation titled the "Illegal Immigration Reform Act", prohibited undocumented students from enrolling in its state colleges or universities. In 2011, Indiana enacted HB 1402 requiring that students be lawfully present to receive in-state tuition benefits. Alabama joined South Carolina when a law was enacted in June 2011 preventing undocumented students from enrolling in public postsecondary institutions.
Community College System Decisions
Several community college systems have considered rules and regulations concerning undocumented students and tuition rates. The Alabama Community College System prohibits undocumented students from enrolling in its colleges. Since 2001, the North Carolina Community College System has changed its admissions policy for undocumented students five times. In the past decade the system has banned undocumented students from enrolling, allowed each campus to decide whether to admit undocumented students, allowed undocumented students, and then again banned undocumented students from enrolling. Currently, after a 2009 decision, undocumented students who graduated from a North Carolina high school, and who are able to pay out-of-state tuition, are allowed to enroll in the North Carolina Community College System.
Board of Regents Decisions
In September 2011, Rhode Island's Board of Governors for Higher Education approved a policy that allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at Rhode Island's colleges if they attended high school in the state for at least three years and graduated. The students must sign an affadavit stating they are pursuing legal status. The policy went into effect in 2012.
In October 2010, Georgia's State Board of Regents passed new rules regulating the admission of undocumented students. The 35 institutions in the University System of Georgia must verify the "lawful presence" of all students seeking in-state tuition rates. In addition, any institution that has not admitted all academically qualified applicants in the two most recent years is not allowed to enroll undocumented students. In 2011, this rule is expected to affect: University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Medical College of Georgia and Georgia College & State University.
In February 2013, the University of Hawaii's Board of Regents passed a policy that would make certain undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition at all Univerity of Hawaii campuses. According to the policy, in order to qualify for in-state tuition, the student must have attended a high school in the United States for at least three years, received a high school diploma or the equivilent, and must file an affadavit with the school stating intent to pursu legal status.
In July 2013, the University of Michigan's Board of Regents approved changes in the guidelines for how students qualify for in-state tuition. The guidelines have extended in-state tuition to students who have attended middle school and high school in the state, as well U.S. military veterans and members of the U.S. Public Health Service. The new policy went into effect in January 2014.
Alene Russell, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, "State Policies Regarding Undocumented College Students:A Narrative of Unresolved Issues, Ongoing Debate and Missed Opportunities," March 2011.
Carisa Chappell, Community College Times, "Struggling with the Status of Undocumented Students," September 2009.
Educators for Fair Consideration, "An Overview of College-Bound Undocumented Students," July 2009.
Mark Johnson, The News Observer, "Migrants Get Colleges' Nod," March 2010.
Sejal Zota, Popular Government, "Unauthorized Immigrants’ Access to Higher Education: Fifty States, Different Directions," Spring/Summer 2009.