BOSTON — Lawmakers are once again considering legislation that would make less expensive in-state public higher education tuition rates available to Massachusetts high school graduates who attended a public high school for at least three years, regardless of their immigration status (H 1078/S577).
Hundreds of Massachusetts students are ineligible for in-state tuition, despite a change in federal immigration law that passed last year allowing some young people to apply for legal status, according to lawmakers and advocates who testified in favor expanding in-state tuition eligibility.
The change in federal policy, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), opened the door for the majority of young immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition, but left some without options, advocates said.
DACA requires immigrants to apply for legal status by the time they are 31 years old, and they must have moved to the United States by 16 years old.
Gov. Deval Patrick supports the legislation, and Secretary of Education Matt Malone said the current policy is inequitable and hurts the state’s economic competitiveness. Eighteen other states have adopted laws allowing in-state tuition for high school graduates who meet certain eligibility requirements, including Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York. New Hampshire lawmakers recently recommended passage of similar legislation.
“These are our kids. They are no different than your or my children,” Malone said. “This is wrong. It is not equitable, and it is not what we value in America.”
Under the proposal, students would need to attend a Massachusetts high school for at least three years.
They would have to show they have registered with Selective Service; have a Social Security number or taxpayer identification number, and filed an affidavit that they have applied for citizenship or are in the process of applying, according to Rep. Denise Provost, D-Somerville, one of the sponsors of the legislation.
Even with DACA, Provost said it was important to pass the bill to “erase the little inequities around its edges.” Some immigrants still have difficulty qualifying for legal status, she said.
Less than 1,000 students would be affected if the bill passes, according to sponsors.
During the hearing, no one testified against the bill.
Rep. James Lyons, R-Andover, and Rep. Marc Lombardo, R-Billerica, filed legislation (H 1073) that would restrict in-state tuition to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
Reached by phone, Lyons said, “I think it is unfair to the taxpayers that we are funding people who are in this state without the proper documentation.”