“There are other students and other residents who need to be brought out of the shadows and into the mainstream,” he added.
Secretary of Education Paul Reveille could not pinpoint how many immigrants would qualify for in-state tuition, but said they would be a subset of the approximately 15,000 people aged 16-31 in Massachusetts who fall within the overall criteria. In addition to meeting the requirements under the federal DACA program, students to qualify would also have to meet all current state rules for admission to the colleges and universities, including academic requirements.
Massachusetts would join nearly a dozen other states, including California, that instituted programs offering in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.
Patrick has long advocated such a policy, but was unsuccessful in previous attempts to implement it legislatively. Some lawmakers, including House Republican Leader Bradley Jones, accused Patrick on Monday of trying to usurp the Legislature’s powers.
“Instead of engaging elected officials from both political parties in constructive conversation and debate, he has put his interests, both politically and personally, above those of Massachusetts’ residents,” said Jones, R-North Reading, who opposes giving in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. He urged an immediate halt to the new policy and a discussion of how to provide affordable education to all Massachusetts residents.
Patrick said his directive did not require legislative approval because the new federal program enabled the state to extend its existing policy.
Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, applauded the governor’s announcement and its potential impact on young immigrants.
“This will be huge,” Millona said. “They will be able to pay the in-state tuition rate, which will bring huge revenue to the state and help contribute to building a strong workforce.”
Massachusetts Treasurer Steven Grossman said the policy would provide a net gain to taxpayers by increasing the number of students attending state colleges and universities. He also addressed concerns that immigrants would take the spots of qualified legal residents at those schools.
“No place at one of our public colleges and universities will be denied to any other child or student,” Grossman said.