Elaine S. Povich, Stateline, August 24, 2023
Democratic Gov. Maura Healey signed the state budget this month with a provision that will allow certain immigrants without permanent legal status — those who have attended high school in Massachusetts for at least three years or who have earned a GED certificate — to pay in-state tuition rates at public universities. The law takes effect immediately.
The idea has bipartisan appeal, with some conservative supporters this year saying it helps reduce workforce shortages and boost tax revenue.
In June, Nevada Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo enacted a law allowing immigrants who have been granted status under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act, or DACA program, to qualify for in-state tuition after living in Nevada for 12 months. That action expanded on a law that allowed high school graduates lacking permanent legal status to do so.
And in Florida this year, state lawmakers rejected a proposal from Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to scrap in-state tuition for students without permanent legal status. He had wanted to include it in a bill to tighten restrictions on immigrants living in the country illegally.
Massachusetts became the 24th state to grant immigrants without legal status access to in-state tuition, according to the Higher Ed Immigration Portal, a website run by a coalition of 18 higher education and immigration organizations to provide information and resources to immigrant students.
Seventeen of the states granting in-state tuition also allow the students to be eligible for financial aid, as does the District of Columbia, according to the Higher Ed Immigration Portal.
Four states — Delaware, Iowa, Michigan and Pennsylvania — restrict the number of public universities at which immigrants without permanent legal status are eligible for in-state tuition, according to the portal.
Five states — Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, Mississippi and Ohio — provide that tuition discount only to young immigrants who have DACA status. The Obama-era DACA program allows immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and who meet other qualifications to avoid deportation and obtain work permits. New applications for the program are on hold while long-running court battles play out.
By contrast, nine states specifically block access to in-state tuition or state financial aid for residents lacking permanent legal status, the immigration portal found. They are: Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. The last three have laws that prevent students without permanent legal status from even enrolling in all or some public colleges, though there may be some exceptions for students with DACA status, according to the portal.