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Talking Points on Tuition Equity: Why States Should Offer In-State Tuition to All Residents (March 2014)

Offering in-state tuition rates to all residents benefits the state’s economy.

  • In-state tuition is not free tuition. Tuition equity laws will generate increased revenue from students who could not otherwise afford to attend college.  
  • Laws that invest in young people by promoting access to affordable higher education create a more educated workforce and make the state stronger and more competitive.
  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, individuals with Bachelor’s degrees earn $1 million more over their lifetimes than those with high school diplomas.[1] College graduates have higher-earning potential, will pay higher taxes, and will likely spend more in state economies.
  • Individuals with increased earning potential rely less on state resources such as healthcare and social services.

Offering in-state tuition rates to all residents is fundamentally fair.

  • Students brought to this country as young children should not be deprived of access to state colleges and universities because of their parents’ choices.
  • Access to in-state tuition makes the college experience possible for our state’s best and brightest who often cannot afford the cost of out-of-state or international student tuition.
  • Talented, hardworking students should not be excluded from the opportunity to pursue their dreams. Tuition equity provides them the tools to succeed fully as community members and continue contributing to the state. 

Offering in-state tuition rates to all residents is fiscally responsible.

  • The state has already educated its students from kindergarten through high school.[2] Giving all students an equal opportunity to attend college maximizes the state’s return on its investment and ensures these skills and talents do not go to waste.
  • Tuition equity laws build the state’s workforce by opening the door for future doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, teachers, and other professionals to give back to our state and our communities.
  • Young people who have been educated in this state consider it to be their home. It is wise to retain hard-working, economically-productive residents and their families.

Offering in-state tuition rates to all residents furthers the message of Catholic social teaching.

  • Our Catholic tradition teaches us to protect and respect human dignity, regardless of immigration status. An affordable education allows all state residents the opportunity to live in dignity.
  • Higher education increases individuals’ opportunities to obtain employment – a fundamental right necessary to support their families.  
  • Enabling a student to afford college positively impacts both the financial and human potential of that student’s entire family.

This summary was prepared in March 2014 with assistance from Legal Fellow, Kassandra Haynes.  It is intended for informational purposes, not as legal advice. For questions, please contact CLINIC’s State and Local Advocacy Attorney, Jen Riddle, at or (301) 565-4807. 

[2] A free public elementary and secondary education is a fundamental constitutional right of all children, regardless of immigration status. This was established in 1982 by the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Plyler v. Doe.