Study Finds In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students Boosts College Enrollment, Lowers High School Dropout Rates

Should states allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public campuses?

If the goal is to increase college enrollment and reduce the number of high school dropouts, the answer is yes, according to a new study by researchers at Roger Williams University’s Latino Policy Institute.

The study shows in-state tuition would result in a 31% increase in the college-going rate among undocumented students, and a 14% decline in the high school dropout rate among undocumented Latino students.

At the time of the study, 11 states offered in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants. Critics say the policies are financial drains on states and unfair to legal U.S. residents, especially out-of-staters who pay higher rates. However, immigrant advocates note that many undocumented students would not go to college at all  if required to pay significantly higher out-of-state rates.

In New England, the report could spur measures that are in various stages of consideration. Rhode Island legislators are hoping the RWU report will bolster their efforts to allow undocumented immigrants in the Ocean State to pay in-state tuition rates. In Connecticut, the House approved a bill to give undocumented residents in-state tuition at public colleges and universities, but advocates say they fear eligible students may be scared off by the requirement that they admit their illegal status. In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick planned to push for in-state tuition for undocumented students.

Meanwhile, on the national level, Senate Democrats recently reintroduced a bill to pass the so-called DREAM Act, which would provide legal status and a path to citizenship to young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and then receive a college education or to enter the military.


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