October 23, 2013 Articles

Tuition Equality: The Ongoing Battle for the Right to Higher Education

The majority of state legislatures have remained silent on the issue.

By Mollie Berkowitz

Lately, chants of “education, not segregation” have echoed throughout Ann Arbor, Michigan, as protesters block off streets in an attempt to be heard. But why? The University of Michigan doesn’t discriminate based on race. In fact, race legally cannot be considered in admissions decisions at the University of Michigan. These chants are suggesting something else: tuition equality for undocumented students.

The battle for tuition equality isn’t confined to the University of Michigan, though: A wide range of bills regarding the issue have been proposed throughout the country. The nation’s first tuition-equality bill—recently upheld by the Supreme Court—hails from California. California’s AB 540 allows all students who meet certain criteria access to in-state tuition regardless of their immigration status. Undocumented students who meet the specified criteria in California also have equal access to state financial aid per AB 540.

Opposite the California statute are Alabama’s and Georgia’s, which prohibit undocumented students from attending state universities in any context. All in all, 13 states allow in-state tuition for undocumented students, while 3 specifically prohibit it, though they allow undocumented students to attend. Colorado Asset, Higher Educ. Alliance, 13 States Already Have In-State Tuition. To this point, the majority of state legislatures have remained silent on the issue.

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