Massachusetts Governor Allows In-state Tuition for Qualifying Illegal Immigrants

Assistant Editor, Wintergreen Orchard House

Nov   2012



Immigrant educationImmigration and higher education are crossing paths again in recent news. Last week, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced that qualified illegal immigrants will be granted the ability to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in Massachusetts.

In a previous blog post, I wrote about a similar program created by The University of California—Los Angeles (UCLA) that was shut down before it got off the ground. The program was different in that it only existed online and through UCLA, but similar in that the cost for illegal immigrants to earn college credits through the program was significantly lower than even the in-state tuition rate for California residents.

The decision in Massachusetts comes on the heels of President Obama launching the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) federal program in June. Under this program, qualified immigrants age 30 and under are protected from being deported for two years and are eligible to apply for a work permit. The Obama administration left the decision up to individual states as to whether to allow immigrants who qualify for DACA to pay in-state tuition rates. Governor Patrick sent a letter to the Board of Higher Education on Monday, November 26 to request that all 29 Massachusetts public colleges and universities take the tuition changes into effect immediately. Current students who qualify may request a refund for the current semester, but all prior semesters will not be refunded.

This equates to significant savings for qualified immigrants who are now eligible to pay in-state tuition rates which, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst for example, is around a $13,000 savings compared to the out-of-state cost.

This is not the first time the Massachusetts state house has been faced with the issue. In 2004, a bill was passed that would have allowed children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities, but the governor at the time, Mitt Romney, rejected it. In 2005, the Senate attempted to pass a similar bill but it was declined by the House in 2006.

There are ongoing debates revolving around this topic across the country, and even politicians in Massachusetts are butting heads. According to an NECN article, Republican leader of the Massachusetts House, State Representative Bradley H. Jones, Jr., believes that measures should be taken to stop illegal immigrants from receiving in-state tuition rates because it doesn’t focus on the needs of legal Massachusetts citizens.

This promotes questions: Will children of illegal immigrants be taking the spots of legal immigrants in Massachusetts public colleges and universities? Will there be any effect on Massachusetts taxpayers? Will public colleges and universities have to put more federal dollars into schools to accommodate for an influx of students? This topic will continue to raise controversy amongst politicians and citizens alike.

Where do you stand on the issue? Enter your comments below.

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About Kristen Healy

Kristen Healy

Kristen is an Assistant Editor at Wintergreen Orchard House, a sub-division of Carnegie Communications, where she manages data for Midwestern colleges and universities. She graduated in 2010 from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a double major in Journalism and Communication and a minor in Political Science. She is psyched about blogging about Public Colleges and Universities seeing as she is a proud product of one. She hopes that her four years at the Massachusetts state flagship campus will help her to bring new light to a broad range of topics that can relate to attending a public college or university. Her college career was spent writing for the news section of UMass’s Daily Collegian, volunteering at the university television studio, and enjoying the sites and activities of downtown Amherst. Kristen loves to travel and spent part of her junior year studying abroad in Galway, Ireland, where she gained perspective of what it is like to attend a large university in another country. She hopes her experiences in public higher education will help guide readers through their own college journeys!

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