Boston – Massachusetts has made the move to grant undocumented immigrants in-state tuition.
Governor Deval Patrick announced Sunday that students that qualify for President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would be given the lower resident rate for tuition and fees in his state.
On Monday, the governor will be sending a letter to the state’s Board of Higher education stating that the changes will take effect immediately, the Boston Globe is reporting. Undocumented students currently paying nonresident tuition at one of the state’s 29 colleges or universities will be able to apply for a refund this semester.
The move by the Massachusetts’s governor comes after the state's immigrants have been in limbo for five months. Since Obama’s decision in June to halt the deportation of young immigrants as a part of the Deferred Action Executive order, many have been waiting to see if they would receive the lower tuition rates.
The move by Patrick and his office significantly reduces the cost of higher education to immigrants.
To put it into perspective, immigrant students who attend the flagship University of Massachusetts Amherst will now pay $13,230 a year compared to the out-of-state tuition rate of $26,635. For community colleges like Bunker Hill, the cost is reduced by more than half the former rate, going from being $13,880 a year to $5,640 with the new in-state rate.
This is not the first time the state has tried to approve a bill allowing undocumented immigrants in-state tuition.
Back in 2004, the Massachusetts’s state legislature passed a similar bill that was vetoed by then-Governor Mitt Romney.
The following year the measure was again brought up but failed in the House in early 2006.
Following his re-election in 2010, Patrick pushed lawmakers to approve the measure.
In late 2011, Patrick appeared at a hearing unannounced to urge lawmakers in the State house to pass the law.
A senior administration official from Patrick’s office said the move to now push forth the measure reflects the governor’s support of Obama’s executive order.
The Deferred Action program, launched in June by the Obama administration, gives immigrants under the age of 30 an automatic two year reprieve from deportation if they arrived to the country before the age of 16.
However when it came to the issue of in-state tuition for those immigrants included in the program, the decision was left up to the state.
Those immigrants with federal work permits will not be affected by the move as they have been allowed to pay resident tuition since 2008.
Most states have opted not to allow immigrants the benefit of resident tuition, a group that is also not eligible for federal financial aid.
For now, it is not clear as to how many students will be affected by the new law.
Estimates from the Migration Policy institute said anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 immigrants in the New England state could apply for the Obama program. Yet as of last week Massachusetts had much fewer, falling behind the state of Virginia, which nationally ranked 10th with less than 6,000 applicants.
The low number of applicants in Massachusetts reflects a national trend for the program.
Nationwide only 300,000 immigrants have applied for the program, far less than the government estimates of 800,000 or more.
Of the applicants reviewed so far only 53,000 have been approved with more than 10,000 rejected.