Illegal immigrants in Massachusetts may qualify for in-state tuition rates at the state’s public higher education institutions.
Gov. Deval Patrick issued a directive on Nov. 19 clarifying the state’s stance on young illegal immigrants and granting in-state prices for tuition and fees at the state’s 29 public colleges and universities, including the University of Massachusetts, to eligible individuals.
At UMass, in-state tuition and fees are approximately $13,000 less than out-of-state rates.
To qualify for the reduced rate, an individual must meet a set of criteria under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – an initiative launched by President Barack Obama last June that aims to protect certain qualifying individuals from deportation for at least two years. The DACA states that a qualifying individual must have arrived in the United States before their 16th birthday and be under 31. In addition, the individual cannot have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor.
If an illegal immigrant is approved and granted deferred action by the federal government, he or she will be able to receive a work permit, which is considered to be a lawful proof of residency in Massachusetts.
“Nothing at the state level has changed,” said Heather Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education, about the ability of people to get work permits.
In a Nov. 19 interview with Boston-based NPR affiliate WBUR, Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville said Patrick’s directive is a clarification of an existing policy in Massachusetts.
The federal measure is estimated to affect between 15,000 and 17,000 illegal immigrants living in Massachusetts, according to Johnson. But less than 400 immigrants are expected to take advantage of the in-state tuition rates, according to The Recorder.
A 2011 report from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation estimates between 315 and 365 illegal immigrants would enroll in one of the state’s colleges or universities. The report indicates that 15 percent of those students would enroll in the UMass system.
Johnson said illegal immigrants qualifying for in-state tuition would need to apply to the schools just as legal Massachusetts residents would and be admitted based on the same admissions criteria.
According to the report, allowing illegal immigrants to qualify for reduced rates could generate about $3 million in new revenue for the UMass system after four years.
UMass students interviewed had mixed feelings about the directive.
“It’s kind of tricky,” said senior Ryan Scarlett. “They are not U.S. citizens, so I don’t agree they should have the same rights, but their parents brought them in. That’s not their choice.”
Junior Eli Hoffman was sympathetic to the directive, saying he believed that most immigrants who came to the United States before their 16th birthday immigrated to the United States because of their parents.
“I don’t see anything wrong with (the directive),” said Hoffman. “I don’t think it’s really their choice … and I don’t think you should make their rights different than ours.”
Others disagreed and said they felt that illegal immigrants should pay out-of-state rates until they become legal residents in Massachusetts.
“If they are not citizens then they shouldn’t be getting the benefits of being in this country,” said freshman Trace Renaud.
There are 12 other states in the nation that allow illegal immigrants to qualify for in-state rates, according to The New York Times.
Katie Landeck contributed to this report. David Barnstone can be reached at email@example.com.