In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students and Parents

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By Mark Kantrowitz

February 20, 2020

Undocumented students and U.S. citizen children of undocumented parents may be eligible for resident tuition if their domicile is in the state.

Children of Undocumented Parents

A U.S. citizen who is a state resident is eligible for in-state tuition regardless of the citizenship status of the student’s parents.

U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled in Wendy Ruiz v. Gerard Robinson that classifying a U.S. citizen student as a non-resident based on their parents’ immigration status violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Similar cases in New Jersey and California ruled in favor of the students.

Undocumented Students

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996(Division C of P.L. 104-208) bans states from providing in-state tuition to undocumented students based on their residence in the state: “An alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State (or a political subdivision) for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident.”

However, several states provide in-state tuition to undocumented students who attended and graduated from a high school in the state, with no minimum duration of state residence required. These states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, and Washington. 

All of the states require the student to have attended high school for at least 3 years in the state, except for New York and Connecticut, which require 2 years, and New Mexico, which requires 1 year.

Undocumented students in California can qualify for in-state tuition using an expanded set of criteria known as AB 540. AB 540 students are also eligible for the Cal Grant using the California Dream Act Application.

As a consequence of the state laws, students who moved out of state after attending high school in the state and/or graduating may still be eligible for in-state tuition.

A good place to start:

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