Currently, there are twenty states which offer in-state tuition to certain illegal immigrant students registered at state-supported colleges and universities. Of these states, 16 offer in-state tuition by state legislative action, while the other four states have taxpayer-supported university systems which offer in-state tuition. Six states have barred in-state tuition and scholarships to illegal immigrant students. Mostly recently, the District of Columbia began the latest jurisdiction to offer in-state tuition and scholarships regardless of immigration status. 

The state legislatures of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington have enacted laws allowing in-state tuition benefits for specified illegal immigrant students. Typically, these laws require attendance and graduation at high schools in the state, acceptance at a state college or university, and promises to apply for legal immigrant status as soon as eligible. At least four state university systems—the University of Hawaii Board of Regents, University of Michigan Board of Regents, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, and Rhode Island’s Board of Governors for Higher Education, established policies to offer in-state tuition rates to unauthorized immigrant students.

Florida and Tennessee enacted legislation in 2014 that offers in-state tuition to American citizens who are the dependents of illegal immigrants. In 2015, Connecticut reduced the number of high school years illegal students must attend in the state from four to two in order to receive in-state tuition rates. Utah, for its part, provided an exemption to verification of lawful presence for privately funded scholarships administered by colleges or universities.

California, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington go even further: they offer state financial assistance to illegal immigrant students. Several states, including Utah, allow public universities to use private sources of funding to support financial aid to unauthorized immigrant students.

Six states—Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri and South Carolina—bar unauthorized immigrant students from in-state tuition benefits. Only Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, forbid admission for illegal immigrant students to public institutions.

Introduced by Republican Sens. Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham, as well as Democrat Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, the DREAM Act of 2017 would redefine federal law so as to make scholarships and loans available to illegal immigrant students.



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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