More states consider allowing illegal immigrants to pay cheaper tuition than American citizens
New legislation in three states could make attending college cheaper for illegal immigrants than for American citizens.
Bills in Georgia and Arizona could grant massive discounts not offered to all American students.
Legislators in Georgia and Arizona are advancing bills that would allow illegal immigrant students to pay in-state tuition at state schools, though American citizens from other states would still pay out-of-state tuition. Meanwhile, the Virginia General Assembly passed a bill that would allow illegal immigrant students to access state financial aid and school-based aid, even though they already pay in-state tuition.
The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act states that anyone “not lawfully present” in the United States is not eligible for “any postsecondary education benefit,” unless citizens have the same eligibility for that benefit.
While U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services considers DACA students to be lawfully present, DACA only applies to eligible individuals who were brought to the United States prior to June 15, 2012. According to the National Council of State Legislatures, supporters of such a bill may dodge IIRIRA by basing in-state tuition on residency, not citizenship.
Georgia lawmaker Kasey Carpenter (R) introduced a bill that would allow the Board of Regents to grant in-state tuition to illegal immigrant students, so long as they are not seeking to attend a research university. Carpenter explained his proposal, telling Campus Reform, “any US citizen can move to Georgia for a year and pay our taxpayer rate for education. This bill would allow DACA students who are or will be tax payer [sic] pay that same rate.”
The bill does not require DACA status in order for an illegal immigrant student to potentially access in-state tuition.
Tuition and fees at Kennesaw State University, Georgia’s largest non-research university, are roughly three times as expensive for out-of-state students than in-state students, and soon, possibly DACA students and illegal immigrant students.
The Arizona Senate Education Committee recently voted to advance a bill that would repeal an existing law that bans illegal immigrant students from receiving in-state tuition. Because the law currently prohibits non-citizens from receiving “state or local public benefits,” the bill would remove in-state tuition from that category.
Out-of-state tuition and fees for this school year are more than double the cost of attendance for in-state students.
Arizona taxpayers were already subsidizing tuition for DACA students; the state’s Board of Regents voted unanimously in 2019 to set state school tuition rates for these students at 150 percent of the in-state cost. This discount means that non-citizen students who graduate from Arizona high schools can go on to pay less for college than a U.S. citizen from another state.
The Virginia General Assembly passed a bill that would permit state financial aid to go to illegal immigrant students. Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to sign the bill.
Virginia enacted taxpayer-subsidized in-state tuition for illegal immigrants in 2020.
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