Legislation intended to make college education more affordable for undocumented students continues to work its way through state legislature across the U.S. Last week, the Colorado Senate approved SB 15 (or ASSET), a tuition equity bill that would provide a standard tuition rate to qualifying students regardless of immigration status. Likewise, bills in Hawaii and Delaware which provide in-state tuition and financial aid to eligible students regardless of status are also moving through their respective legislatures. Currently, twelve states have laws on their books that permit certain undocumented students who have attended and graduated from their primary and secondary schools to pay the same tuition as their classmates at public institutions of higher education.

As expected, the democratically-controlled Colorado Senate recently voted along party lines to pass SB 15, a bill that provides a standard tuition rate (higher than in-state tuition, but lower than out-of-state) to qualifying undocumented students. A similar tuition equity measure died in the House Judiciary Committee last year. This year, however, SB 15 is expected to pass the House Judiciary Committee thanks to Rep. Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs), who according to reports, supports the bill and could cast the necessary swing vote. Passage of SB 15, however, is not certain as the bill still needs to pass the House Appropriations Committee. Colorado Governor, John Hickenlooper, has publically expressed support for the bill.

In Hawaii, a bill (SB 2163) that provides in-state tuition, state financial aid and fee waivers to qualifying students, regardless of immigration status, recently passed the Senate Education Committee. According to the University of Hawaii, the bill would help at least 1,300 students access higher education and, according to the Committee report, allow them to contribute millions of dollars to the state over their course of their lives. “Failure to pass this measure would result in significant lost revenue for the State,” the report continued.

[The] Committee finds that students who do not hold a lawful immigration status encounter extreme hardship attending public institutions of higher education in the State even though many of these students have lived in the State for the majority of their lives, have thrived socially and academically, and were unaware of their immigration status until they applied for admission to institutions of higher education.

Permitting these students to access higher education with the same benefits as resident citizens is in the public interest as it will allow these students to fully realize their potential as productive members of society.

And in Delaware, legislators recently introduced SB 169, a bill that allows undocumented students to pay tuition and fees at the in-state, resident rate at public institutions of higher education. The bill would also allow qualifying students to apply for and receive state scholarships and grants. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Education committee.

To date, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Washington permit qualifying undocumented students to pay the same tuition as their classmates at public colleges and universities.

Photo by SEIU International

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