Rhode Island demonstrators in support of in-state tuition (AP)Laws cracking down on illegal immigrants in Alabama and other states have dominated the news over the past year--but three states have more quietly passed laws or changed rules to allow illegal immigrants brought to the country as minors to go to college at in-state rates.
Rhode Island's higher education body, the Board of Governors for Higher Education, decided last week to allow illegal immigrants who graduate from state high schools to pay in-state tuition at the state's three public colleges. The board was urged to do so by the state's independent governor, Lincoln Chafee, who used to be a Republican senator. Earlier this year, Maryland and Connecticut lawmakers voted to extend in-state tuition rates to young illegal immigrants in their states. California, meanwhile, passed a law in July allowing illegal immigrants to compete for private scholarships.
Even the most talented of college graduates will find themselves pressed to find work if they are not legally authorized to be in the country, the AP points out. A University of Chicago study found that young illegal immigrant recently graduated from college ended up in taking jobs similar to those held by their less educated parents, working in factories or in the service industry. The Urban Institute estimates that 65,000 illegal immigrants graduate the nation's high schools each year.
The Supreme Court has ruled that public K-12 schools must educate every child, regardless of immigration status, but the law leaves practically no mechanism for those young people to become legal immigrants or citizens once they graduate. The Dream Act would have granted legal status to young people who go to college or join the military, but the measure failed in the Senate last December.
Currently, 11 states have laws allowing in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.