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Undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts may soon qualify for in-state tuition rates

There may be good news to report for immigrants who have been hoping to attend college in addition to working so they can transfer money abroad.

In a letter written to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said that a fundamental component of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is to make undocumented immigrants eligible for a discounted rate on in-state tuition, which has traditionally only been available to citizens. Deval contends that, based on the DACA rules, unauthorized immigrants should be eligible for a tuition break at the Bay State's 29 public universities.

Speaking with reporters, Patrick said the move is the best one for the state as well as the immigrants who live in the Commonwealth.

"It's a step in the right direction but it's not a substitute for comprehensive immigration reform, we still need that," said Patrick. "There are other students and other residents who need to be brought out of the shadows and into the mainstream."

In June, President Barack Obama announced the implementation of the DACA, which among other things grants a temporary reprieve from certain unauthorized immigrants being deported, so long as they meet specific standards, such as being under 31 years old as of June 15, not being convicted of a felony or misdemeanor at any time and either currently in school, graduated or an active member of the military. Individuals who have been honorably discharged can apply for consideration as well.

While the DACA makes it easier for undocumented immigrants to live in the U.S. without having to fear being deported, the directive issued in June left it up for the states to decide whether they wanted to make immigrants eligible for in-state tuition. As a general rule, residents who live within a certain state can go to school at a lower cost than those who come from out of state.

One dozen states have adopted similar stances
Massachusetts isn't the only state that's permitted undocumented immigrants to apply for resident tuition. According to Michael Lovas, an immigration expert and law professor from the University of Houston, 12 states have made similar moves, namely Maryland, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, New York, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Utah, Texas and Rhode Island. Maryland was the first to take this course of action, he told The New York Times.

"Some states are playing real hardball on college tuition and other benefits, while others are moving toward accommodation, and it's changing all the time," said Lovas.

Some of the states that have expressly forbidden undocumented immigrants from being eligible for in-state tuition are Arizona, Indiana, Ohio, South Carolina, Georgia and Ohio.

With Massachusetts' Board of Education expected to revise its policy as directed by Patrick, immigrants will be able to attend classes at a significantly lower cost. As reported by The Boston Globe, residents who attend the University of Massachusetts pay approximately $13,230 each year. Non-residents, however, pay more than double that, totaling $26,645 in tuition and fees. Other schools that offer deep discounts to residents include Bunker Hill Community College and Framingham State.

Supporters of the decision say that it will do the Massachusetts' economy a lot of good, as more people will attend school and then work within the state when they graduate. A considerable number of studies have been performed in recent years, virtually all of them pointing to the benefits that come when immigrants are able to work so that they can send money home to their families. 

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