Massachusetts Senate Bill Would Provide In-State Tuition To Illegal Immigrants

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Should Massachusetts make college tuition cheaper for illegal immigrants?

One bill (SD.81) recently filed in the Massachusetts Senate would make it happen.

The bill, sponsored by state Senator Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), would offer in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants who have attended a Massachusetts high school for at least three years and either graduated or obtained a general equivalency degree. 

These in-state rates tend to be far cheaper than the out-of-state rates that illegal immigrants in theory have to pay now to attend college. At UMass Boston, for example, mandatory fees and tuition for the 2022-2023 school year add up to $15,958 for in-state students and $36,931 for out-of-state students, according to the school’s web site — a difference of almost $21,000.

There were about 13,000 illegal immigrant children under 17 in kindergarten-through-12th-grade public schools in Massachusetts in 2018, according to State House News Service.

Nineteen states currently allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Liberal advocates have been pushing for a bill to provide in-state tuition for illegal immigrants in the Commonwealth for nearly 20 years, but have not yet succeeded.

The idea prominently came up twice during Mitt Romney’s time as governor of Massachusetts — and failed both times.

The proposal appeared as an amendment to the fiscal year 2005 budget. However, Romney issued a line-item veto of the proposal in April 2004, and the legislature did not try to override his veto.

Additionally, the Massachusetts House of Representatives rejected the bill 57-97 when it came up for a vote in January 2006. 

Even though a similar bill has not come up for a vote in 16 years, it remains a political issue in Massachusetts.

During the 2021-2022 legislative session, then-state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain) and state representative Michael Moran (D-Brighton) filed an in-state tuition for illegal immigrants bill (S.823/H.1352). The bill was sent to a study committee in February 2022, effectively killing it for that session. 

While it was not a prominent campaign issue last year, new Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey expressed support for this kind of proposal in 2019.

“I write to express support for expanding access to our public colleges and universities by making all Massachusetts high school graduates who attended our high schools for at least three years eligible for in-state tuition rates, fees, and state-funded financial aid,” Healey wrote in a letter to the Massachusetts Legislature’s  Joint Committee on Higher Education on July 30, 2019. “Meaningful and equitable access to higher education is critically important to success for all of our students, including many immigrant students who have lived in our communities and attended our schools since childhood.”

State Representative Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica) has been among the chief opponents of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, as NewBostonPost has previously covered

“I’ve heard the testimonies, I’ve heard the stories,” Lombardo said in 2015. “And listen, there’s a human element of this, and you’d be remiss not to appreciate the impact on the individuals’ lives. Just the same, you can’t ignore the struggles of those families who are here legally. My preference is to give preference to the legal residents and taxpayers.”

Crighton could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday this week.


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