At least 17 states have laws that make some undocumented immigrant students eligible for in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities, a new report and commentary from The Migration Policy Institute has found.
The organization found that the states’ “DREAM Acts” can differ significantly in their eligibility requirements for in-state tuition, as do state policies regarding the availability of financial aid and other supports. In most cases, the measures seek to lower the barrier to higher education for undocumented students.
The dream in DREAM Act stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors. Speaking at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s annual policy conference in Washington this week, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said “it makes no sense” to deny undocumented immigrant students access to higher education.
“On one side of these policy arguments are those who point to centuries-old legal and ethical principles which hold that children should not be punished for the actions of their parents,” said Margie McHugh, director of the institute’s National Center of Immigrant Integration Policy.
“On the other are those who see such measures as sanctioning—even rewarding—illegal acts and imposing unwarranted burdens on the public purse.”
The Migration Policy Institute report includes a chart that documents policies related to college enrollment, in-state tuition, financial aid, and other supports for the top 15 states of residence for youth eligible for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. That Obama administration initiative grants eligible undocumented youths who were brought to the United States as children temporary relief from deportation and a shot at work authorization.
The chart also details how states are coming down on opposite sides of the in-state tuition debate, or “adopting seemingly small eligibility distinctions that have big impacts, such as disqualifying youth who earned a high school equivalency diploma,” a news release from the Migration Policy Institute.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.