States move against in-state tuition for illegal immigrants
In recent years, states have barred undocumented students from getting the lower tuition fees.
Of all illegal immigrants, young people who were brought to the US as children have been the ones most likely to win concessions from the public. But the recession appears to be changing that, driving sentiment against educational benefits for undocumented college students.Skip to next paragraph
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Some states are explicitly refusing to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition fees at colleges, reversing a previous trend. In-state tuition tends to be two to three times less than what out-of-state students pay.
Since 2006, four states – Georgia, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona – have made undocumented students ineligible for in-state tuition rates. In Arizona, the ban came through a voter initiative after legislation was vetoed by the governor.
By contrast, between 2001 and 2006, 10 states – among them California, Kansas, and New York – passed legislation awarding in-state tuition rates to undocumented students. The issue is current again in California, where a new bill would let undocumented students qualify for financial aid.
The economic downturn may be a factor in the recent shift. "Obviously, one of the biggest concerns for middle-class families right now is how to get their kids through college and how are we going to pay for this," says Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which advocates reducing immigration. "A large portion of middle-class America sees this as a real threat to the interests of their own kids."
Complicating the issue is an older federal law that says states can't make in-state tuition available for undocumented students unless they do the same for citizens from anywhere in the US. California, Kansas, and other states have faced lawsuits contending that they are violating this federal law. The California case was defeated, but the Kansas one is still on appeal.
Amnesty or investment?
Last week, Senator Durbin and Sen. Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana introduced the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a bipartisan measure to make it easier for undocumented students to become permanent residents if they came here as children, are long-term US residents, have good character, and attend college or enlist in the military for at least two years.