NILC tuition equity policies map June 2019At least 20 states and the District of Columbia have laws or policies enabling students who meet certain criteria to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities, regardless of immigration status. A growing number of states also offer state financial aid to these students.

Yet in Massachusetts, where 1 in 6 residents is foreign-born, and immigrants and their children make up a large shares of public school enrollment in many districts, bills to extend in-state tuition and state financial aid to all eligible high school graduates have failed to advance in the Legislature. For thousands of students, that means college is simply beyond reach. In Massachusetts, students with DACA or Temporary Protected Status (TPS) qualify for in-state tuition, but undocumented students don’t – no matter how long they’ve lived here. And all these students, including DACA and TPS holders, are ineligible for federal or state financial aid.

For context, attending Bunker Hill Community College full-time in 2019­–2020 (15 credits per term, excluding health insurance, books, etc.) will cost $6,090 with in-state tuition, and $12,270 at out-of-state rates. At Framingham State University, in-state tuition and fees for day students are $11,100, while the out-of-state price is $17,180. At UMass Boston, the costs are $14,167 and $33,966, respectively.

Four bills before the Legislature aim to close the opportunity gap: S.740, sponsored by Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, and H.1239, sponsored by Rep. Denise Provost, would qualify students for in-state tuition and state financial aid if they attended a high school in the Commonwealth for three or more years, and graduated from a local high school, or obtained a high school equivalency diploma here, with some conditions. Two other bills, S.739, sponsored by Sen. Harriette Chandler, and H.1236, sponsored by Rep. Michael Moran, would qualify these students for in-state tuition, but leave state financial aid rules unchanged.

Thousands of current public school students – and many more graduates – could benefit. The Migration Policy Institute estimates, based on 2012–2016 U.S. Census data, that 14,000 undocumented immigrants ages 3–17 are enrolled in Massachusetts public schools, and another 26,000 ages 18–24 live in the state. Right now, no matter how talented, hard-working or ambitious, most of these young people have little hope after high school.

Immigrant students in Massachusetts have waited far too long already. It’s time to pass higher ed equity legislation!

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► Watch and share videos: Marlon Portillo, UMass Boston and Emma Dejeanlouis, MassBay Community College