National Bill Would Make College More Affordable for Undocumented Students

In the form of the 'IN-STATE for DREAMers Act'

By Julianne Hing Jan 17, 2014

On Thursday, congressional lawmakers kicked off a new effort to help make college more affordable for undocumented students. Proposed by Washington Sen. Patty Muray and Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, the Investing in Students to Achieve Tuition Equity (IN-STATE) for DREAMers Bill would create a $750 million grant program to be handed out over a decade in the form of need-based financial aid to states which currenly provide in-state tuition and financial aid eligibility to undocumented students. According to the lawmakers’ estimates, 1.8 million undocumented students could be helped by the bill. The grant program would be paid for by increasing F-1 student visa fees $150 to $350, the Huffington Post reported. 

Currently, 19 states offer in-state tuition to undocumented students, but many fewer–just Texas, California and New Mexico–allow undocumented students to apply for state financial aid. 

Polis and Murray wrote in an op-ed for The Hill:

Over the last decade, the cost of a college degree has skyrocketed, and average annual costs at public colleges and universities have increased by more than 100 percent.  The American Dream Grants established by our legislation would supplement existing state financial aid funding for all students and help ensure that states continue to invest in their higher education systems and pass along cost savings to students.

In addition to the difference that affordable tuition makes for students, we’ve already seen that states benefit from equitable tuition policies, too.  By allowing all qualified students to access higher education, states can invest in thousands of additional students every year who are able to pursue their dreams, start a career, and contribute to their local economies.

Because undocumented students are considered out-of-state residents–even in the states where they reside and may have spent the entirety of their childhood–they are forced to pay out-of-state tuition which is two and sometimes three times the in-state tuition price. What’s more, undocumented students are ineligible for federal student aid, and unless states proactively extend tuition equity to undocumented students, college can become prohibitively expensive.