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In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students in Utah
by Jennifer Robinson, CPPA Research Associate
In 2002, the Utah Legislature passed House Bill 144, which
allows undocumented students to qualify for resident tuition rates at Utah’s
public colleges and universities.
In recent legislative sessions, there have been several
attempts to repeal Utah’s law granting in-state tuition for undocumented
students. House Bill 224, introduced in the 2007 Legislature, would have
essentially repealed Utah Code 53-8-106, which provides an exemption from non-resident
tuition for undocumented immigrant students within the Utah System of Higher
Education. The bill would have allowed
undocumented students who enter a state higher education institution before May
1, 2007 to pay in-state tuition.
However, all undocumented students who enter after that date would have
been required to pay the non-resident rate.
The bill failed in the House after receiving a tie vote (37-37-1) on
January 30, 2007. The next day, a
motion was made to reconsider the bill, however that motion failed. A similar bill, HB 437 is a comprehensive
immigration bill and it includes the prohibition on residential tuition for
undocumented students. HB 437 was
favorably passed out of a House committee on February 20, 2007 and may be
considered by the full House before the end of the General Session.
Utah in Comparison
Utah is not the only state to pass legislation that allows
undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and
universities. In 2001, Texas became the
first state to pass legislation granting in-state tuition to undocumented
students; California followed later that year.
In total, ten states grant in-state tuition to undocumented students;
they include: California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York,
Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Washington (NCSL 2006). Other states have considered
similar legislation, but have failed to pass it. Six states have tried to pass legislation that would restrict
undocumented students from receiving in-state tuition: Alaska, Arizona,
Colorado, North Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.
Purpose of In-State
The primary intent of these laws is to make higher education
more affordable and accessible to these students. Laws granting resident tuition to undocumented students provide
them with the opportunity to continue their educational goals. The cost of in-state tuition is considerably
lower, making college more affordable for undocumented students.
A secondary argument in favor of providing in-state tuition
to undocumented students concerns a state’s economic interest. According to a recent report by the American
Association for State Colleges and Universities, a “large portion of
undocumented alien students are likely to remain in the United States, whether
or not they have access to postsecondary education. Accordingly, it would seem
to be in states’ economic and fiscal interests to promote at least a basic
level of education beyond high school to alien students, to increase their
contribution to economic growth while reducing the prospect of dependence on
public/community assistance” (AASCU 2005).
Students with a degree are more productive, less likely to need
government assistance, and help to maintain a strong state economy (National
Immigration Law Center 2005a).
In addition to a state’s economic interests, higher
education has positive effects on individual earnings. For example, individuals with higher
education degrees have much higher incomes.
The average earnings for a high school graduate in 2000 were $25,900
annually. College graduates earned on
average $45,400 annually (Day and Newburger 2002). The comparison indicates an additional economic benefit to
individuals and state economies.
In-State Tuition Laws
Several cases have emerged in recent years challenging laws
that allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. Plaintiffs claim that such laws violate the
Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA)
and the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 (PRWORA). The
basis of the argument lies in the federal government’s power over immigration
and naturalization. Federal supremacy over immigration, rooted in the
Constitution, vests Congress with the power “to establish an uniform Rule of
Naturalization” (Article I, Section 8).
There is broad disagreement over the interpretation of the
Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act (1996) and the
Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (1996). Specifically, the effect of the IIRIRA and
PRWORA on higher education for undocumented students is at debate. Federal
legislation has been considered several times in recent years to clarify the
issue of granting in-state tuition to undocumented students. Although no action has been taken during
this session of Congress, some have predicted passage of a bill that will allow
undocumented students to attend college and pay resident tuition.
The debate over offering resident tuition to undocumented students
is likely to continue in state legislatures throughout the nation, including
Utah. During the 2007 session, Utah
House Bill 224 failed to pass the Utah House of Representatives on January 30
(37-37-1). A motion to reconsider the
bill the next day also failed (38-36-1).
A similar bill, HB 437, is also being considered in the 2007
session. HB 437 is a comprehensive
immigration bill, and it includes the prohibition on residential tuition for
undocumented students. Get the full report.