Laws Extending In-State Tuition to ALL Residents | CLINIC

Laws Extending In-State Tuition to ALL Residents

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It is estimated that 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school in the United States every year. These graduates face various financial barriers to pursuing a college education, including the fact that a social security number is required to qualify for federal financial aid. Since the Obama administration announced its Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012, over 520,000 youth have been granted permission to work and, as a result, the right to obtain a social security number. (Click here for the numbers of individuals granted DACA in each state). While not all individuals believed to be eligible for DACA have been able to apply, the program has been instrumental in illuminating some of the difficulties undocumented young people face in their quest to pursue higher education and obtain legal employment. In particular, state educators, policy makers, and the public at large are beginning to appreciate the financial and educational barriers faced by undocumented youth and seek meaningful solutions.     

Out-of-state students pay an average of $22,203 a year to attend a public, 4-year college while in-state residents pay an average of $8,893.[1]  Recognizing this substantial difference in tuition, as well as the tremendous social and economic contributions of college graduates, a growing number of states are passing tuition equity laws – laws that extend eligibility for in-state tuition rates to all residents regardless of immigration status. More than 60% of our foreign-born population currently lives in a state with tuition equity.  Undocumented residents who meet certain criteria can access in-state tuition in 19 states.  16 of these states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington) have state-wide tuition equity laws or policies while 3 states (Hawaii, Michigan, and Rhode Island) have tuition equity policies at major educational institutions. [2]  

While this is great progress, there remains work to be done in the remaining states in which legislators have not yet passed tuition equity laws.  On the most restrictive end of the spectrum, Georgia explicitly prohibits undocumented students from accessing in-state tuition while Alabama and South Carolina bar undocumented students from even enrolling in public institutions of higher education. CLINIC has prepared Talking Points on why offering in-state tuition rates to all residents, regardless of immigration status, is fundamentally fair, fiscally responsible, beneficial to the economy, and in line with Catholic social teaching.  We hope these will assist in your advocacy, whether it is convincing state legislators to sponsor or vote for a tuition equity bill; persuading decision-makers in university systems that tuition equity is sound public policy; writing an op-ed or speaking to the media; or converting the minds and hearts of members of your community. 

[1] See background information on the federal IN-STATE for DREAMERS Act of 2014, available at:

[2] It is worth noting that Ohio and Massachusetts, along with a handful of individual universities and community colleges around the country, limit access to in-state tuition to DACA grantees only.



This summary was prepared in April 2014 for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. 

For questions, please contact CLINIC’s State & Local Advocacy Attorney Jen Riddle at or

 (301) 565-4807.