Massachusetts In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students

Massachusetts In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students

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Dylan Scott started this petition to Massachusetts State House and

This past year, I have been given the opportunity to serve as an intern in a suburban Massachusetts High School Guidance Department. Many of the students I have had the privilege of working with, happen to be undocumented and have ended up in their current situation by way of being brought to this country at a young age. Fortunately, due to current legislation these students are able to receive a free public school K-12 education. Until the time they graduate high school, these students are given the same opportunity to succeed as any other student is. However, once these students graduate, the access to higher education is limited due to financial barriers. 

On a federal level, these students are not eligible for financial aid. However, states have the freedom to help provide financial assistance to help create the access to the opportunity of a higher education to these students. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia currently have legislation that grants unauthorized immigrant students in-state tuition. The stipulations of much of this legislation is that the student have attended a school in the state in which they reside for a certain number of years (typically at least 2-3 years), have graduated from high school, and have agreed to apply for citizenship when eligible. Currently in Massachusetts, these students are not eligible for any state-based or in-state tuition access at state funded institutions of higher education and community colleges. Instead, they are considered international students. The reality, many of these students have resided in this state for much of their lives, have been educated in our schools, and have graduated from our high schools. However, because of their immigration status, they are not eligible to pay what a US born student who has lived in this state for the exact same amount of time would pay. 

As a point of reference, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (a state funded institution) charges Massachusetts students $14,358 in tuition. However, an undocumented student that is considered an international student would pay $30,623 in tuition. That is a difference of $16,265 per academic year. For Middlesex Community College, the in-state cost per credit is $252, while the international rate for undocumented students is $505 per credit. Typically a full credit load is 12 credits, meaning in-state would cost a student $3,024 and international $6,060. Resulting in a difference of $3,036. So, undocumented students that have lived in the state of Massachusetts for a majority of their lives and have been educated in our public school systems are expected to pay more than double what most other students would have to pay to access higher education. 

The states that have currently enacted tuition equity legislation have reported that the cost to implement such plans is minimal. It is important for us to consider that in-state tuition is not free tuition. Yes, it is a discounted tuition, but it provides the opportunity for more students to achieve a higher education while simultaneously generating more revenue into our Massachusetts public higher education institutions and community colleges. According to The Migration Policy Institute, there are about 173,000 undocumented individuals in Massachusetts. Lets say 0.5% (approximately 865 people) of those individuals decided to attend Salem State and were given the access to the in-state tuition rate of $11,284, that would be an additional $9,760,660 in revenue being generated into Salem State. 

Currently, federal law does not prohibit states from providing in-state tuition to undocumented students. Section 505 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996 actually states that undocumented students "shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State for any post-secondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident." Since Massachusetts currently allows US born students in-state tuition, there is no law preventing the state from allowing undocumented immigrants in-state tuition. Therefore, I believe Massachusetts needs to follow suit with the sixteen other states and the District of Columbia to invest in our students and to invest in the future of this state. I believe that ensuring our youth are educated greatly intersects with many facets of our future as a state, including our economic future. As the baby boomer generation continues to age, the number of retirees will continue to rise. We not only will need to fill these positions with educated individuals, but these individual's tax contributions can help bring in employees to the state of Massachusetts.  

The bottom line is, I never want to have to tell another student that is high achieving, has lived in Massachusetts for much of their life, who considers this state to be their home, and who has graduated from high school with high honors, that they do not have the access to a higher education simply because of their immigration status. If you are with me, I hope that you consider signing this petition to let the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Government know that we can do better for all of us. 

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