As national discourse over immigration heats up, states advance Dream Acts

August 27, 2013
  • AACRAO Connect
  • Compliance and Reporting
  • Diversity and Inclusion

college graduateAs Congress and the Obama Administration prepare for a national debate on immigration, five states have made considerable progress over the past two weeks in advancing policies that would allow qualified undocumented students to attend public colleges and universities as residents. Under these policies, hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children would be able to pay resident tuition, and, in some cases, may even qualify for state financial aid.

To be eligible, undocumented students must attend a state high school for a specified period (1-3 years), graduate or receive their GED, and file an affidavit stating that the student has or will apply for citizenship.

Dreaming Big

The federal DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act was first introduced in the Senate in 2001. The bipartisan bill would allow states to offer in-state tuition to young undocumented students and would provide a path to citizenship for students who pursue two- or four-year degrees or military service. Since its introduction in 2001, the federal DREAM Act has stalled in Congress several times.

Although state Dream Acts and tuition equity policies do not provide undocumented students a pathway to citizenship, these state policies create precedents that contribute critically to the national debate on immigration.

State Progress

Colorado lawmakers have considered in-state tuition for undocumented students for over a decade, but the measures were defeated each time by lawmakers from both parties. Last week the Colorado Senate finally approved the bill with some bipartisan support, and it is expected to also pass in the House.

Meanwhile in Oregon, House representatives approved their tuition equity bill, with supporters hopeful that it will pass in the Senate. Gov. John Kitzhaber, Rep. Michael Dembrow and Oregon business leaders demonstrated support for the tuition equity bill. Similar bills were proposed in 2003 and 2011, but both died in the House.

A bill introduced in the Minnesota State Legislature this week would classify undocumented students as residents for purposes of tuition and state financial aid at all public universities and colleges in the state. Under current state law, undocumented students can receive in-state tuition at some state campuses but do not qualify for state or federal financial aid.

In 2011, an Indiana state law required undocumented students to pay the out-of-state tuition rate at Indiana public colleges and universities. Under a bill approved by a Senate committee, undocumented students attending a public college or university on or before July 1, 2011, would be eligible to pay lower in-state tuition rates. The bill would affect about 200 Indiana students whose tuition increased as a result of the 2011 law.

In Hawaii, the Board of Regents unanimously approved a policy in February allowing undocumented students to pay the in-state tuition rate at public universities and colleges. University officials expect as many as 300 undocumented students to be affected by the new policy that will take place in the fall.

Since 2001, twelve other states”California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Washington”have passed similar measures. Additionally, last fall, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick directed the state's Board of Higher Education to grant in-state tuition to undocumented students who have acquired work permits through President Obama's deferred deportation program.  Only California, New Mexico and Texas allow undocumented students to receive state financial aid.

The AACRAO Public Policy Agenda outlines major issues”including the federal DREAM Act”impacting AACRAO members and presents a framework for AACRAO's involvement in the public policy arena. Download and read the AACRAO Public Policy and Education Agenda.


By: AACRAO Connect


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