DREAMs Grow at the State Level for Undocumented Students

dreamer graduate undocumented educationDespite politicians’ failure to pass the DREAM Act at the federal level, the movement continues to gather momentum at the state level. With the recent passage of laws in Virginia and Florida, 20 states now offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrant college students, also known as DREAMers. These policies are promising to improve the lives of undocumented students, and studies back it up.

Improving Education Before College
In addition to improving access to college, studies are showing that in-state tuition policies have other benefits. Research has indicated that adopting in-state tuition policy has even improved the odds that undocumented students will graduate. The policy can decrease the drop-out rate among non-citizens high school students by 7 to 10 percentage points. Another study authored by Robert Bozick and Trey Miller finds that Mexico-born non–U.S. citizen youth living in states that offer access to in-state tuition rates for undocumented youth are 65 percent more likely to be enrolled in school than their peers living in states with no explicit policy.

Unfinished Business
While there has been tremendous progress in just the past three years with regard to passing DREAM Act legislation at the state level, there is still much to be done. 30 states do not have policies that are friendly to undocumented student residents. This means that an undocumented immigrant resident who wants to go to a state college, university, or community college has to pay the much pricier out-of-state tuition rate. What’s more, undocumented students, even with DACA, are ineligible for grants and scholarships at the federal level. This includes federal Pell grants, federally-backed loans and work-study positions. However many colleges, foundations, and local scholarship organizations provide scholarships for DREAMers and DACA grantees. Additionally, five states (CA, HI, NM, TX and WA) make state financial aid accessible to undocumented immigrant students.

In-State Tuition Eligibility Requirements
Eligibility requirements for undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition. In general, students must live in state and attend high school for a specified period (1-4 years), and graduate or receive their GED. Students must be accepted to a public college or university, and must sign an affidavit stating their intention to file for legal immigration status.

States with DREAM Acts Providing In-State Tuition Benefits

State Bill/Policy Year Enacted Financial Aid
California AB 540 2001 Yes
Colorado SB 13-033 2013 N/A
Connecticut HB 6390 2011 N/A
Florida HB 851 2014 N/A
Hawaii Section 6-9 2013 Yes
Illinois HB 60 2003 N/A
Kansas HB 2145 2004 N/A
Maryland SB 167 2011 N/A
Minnesota SF 1236 2013 Yes
Nebraska LB 239 2006 N/A
New Jersey SB 2479 2013 No
New Mexico SB 582 2005 Yes
New York SB 7784 2002 N/A
Oklahoma SB 596 2003 N/A
Oregon HB 2787 2013 N/A
Rhode Island Policy S-5.0 2011 N/A
Texas HB 1403 2001 Yes
Utah HB 144 2002 N/A
Virginia HB 779 2014 N/A
Washington HB 1079 2003 Yes

States with Laws that Actively Bar In-State Tuition Benefits
States that have gone out of their way to bar undocumented immigrant students from in-state tuition benefits include Alabama (HB56, 2011), Arizona (Proposition 300, 2006), Georgia (SB 492, 2008), South Carolina (HB4400, 2008), and Indiana (H 1402, 2011).

Additional Resources
College Education for DREAMers
DREAMer Scholarships
DACA Resource Center
DACA Application (I-821D)