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

StateBill/PolicyYear EnactedFinancial Aid
CaliforniaAB 5402001Yes
ColoradoSB 13-0332013N/A
ConnecticutHB 63902011N/A
FloridaHB 8512014N/A
HawaiiSection 6-92013Yes
IllinoisHB 602003N/A
KansasHB 21452004N/A
MarylandSB 1672011N/A
MinnesotaSF 12362013Yes
NebraskaLB 2392006N/A
New JerseySB 24792013No
New MexicoSB 5822005Yes
New YorkSB 77842002N/A
OklahomaSB 5962003N/A
OregonHB 27872013N/A
Rhode IslandPolicy S-5.02011N/A
TexasHB 14032001Yes
UtahHB 1442002N/A
VirginiaHB 7792014N/A
WashingtonHB 10792003Yes

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)