OLR Research Report

February 21, 2007




By: Rute Pinhel, Research Analyst

You asked several questions regarding in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. Your questions and the respective answers follow.

What is the status of federal law, particularly what was previously called the DREAM Act?

The proposed DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act would repeal a provision of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 that denies an unlawful alien's eligibility for higher education benefits based on state residence unless a U.S. national is also eligible regardless of residence. It also authorizes the Homeland Security Secretary to cancel the removal of, and adjust to conditional permanent resident status, an alien who:

1. entered the United States before his or her 16th birthday, and has been present in the United States for at least five years immediately preceding enactment of the act;

2. is a person of good moral character;

3. is not inadmissible or deportable under certain provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act;

4. at the time of application, has been admitted to an institution of higher education or has earned a high school or equivalent diploma; and

5. from the age of 16 and older, has never been under a final order of exclusion, deportation, or removal.

The bill also sets the conditions for the conditional permanent resident status.

The proposal was initially introduced in the 107th Congress in 2001. It was reintroduced in the Senate in November 2005, approved by the Senate Judiciary committee in 2006 as an amendment to a comprehensive immigration reform package, and passed the Senate in May 2006. A House version of the bill, known as the American Dream Act, was initially introduced in 2001 and reintroduced in 2006. It was referred to several committees but never acted upon.

The Senate reintroduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act in January. It has been referred to the Judiciary Committee for review. It is not yet clear if this bill will include the DREAM Act proposal as it did in 2006. Another proposed bill, the Fairness in Higher Education Act of 2007, would prohibit federal assistance to colleges in states that provide in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. This bill has been referred to the Committee on Education and Labor.

How many states offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants? How long have they done so? How many years of high school do they require?

Since 2001, 10 states have passed laws granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants. The laws generally require that students:

1. reside in the state and attend a state high school for one to three years,

2. graduate from a state high school or attain the recognized equivalent,

3. be accepted to a public college or university in the state, and

4. submit an affidavit stating they have filed for legal immigration status or will file when they are eligible.

Table 1 shows when these laws were passed and the number of years of high school each state's law requires.

Table 1. State Laws Granting In-State Tuition to Undocumented Immigrants



High School Requirement



Three years



Three years



Three years



Three years

New Mexico


One year

New York


Two years



Two years



Three years



Three years



Three years

Do these states have any experience that might help in estimating the number of students eligible in Connecticut?

While there doesn't appear to be any available data on the precise number of immigrants graduating from Connecticut schools, the fiscal note for House Bill 6793 (2005) provides some insight. It estimated that the number of students taking advantage of the reduced tuition rate could be as high as 200. (That bill, as drafted, could have applied to citizens from other states who attended high school in Connecticut, e.g. private school students.) The bill would have made eligible for in-state tuition anyone, other than a nonimmigrant alien, who: (1) graduated from a Connecticut high school; (2) attended any educational institution in the state for at least three years before seeking in-state tuition status; and (3) was seeking admission to, or was a student at, UConn, one of the Connecticut State universities, or a community-technical college.

Not all states that have passed laws granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants track the number of undocumented students who have enrolled since the laws were enacted. We located the following data:

California. A 2005 Boston Globe article reported that 357 undocumented immigrants were enrolled in the University of California system in 2004-05. Statewide data for all California public colleges and universities are not available.

Kansas. The fiscal note for Kansas' bill indicated that the number of undocumented students could not be determined because the universities do not collect data on the number of such students enrolled. In 2004, 30 undocumented immigrants enrolled in Kansas' public colleges and universities. There were 221 enrolled in 2005-06.

New Mexico. The fiscal impact report published with New Mexico's bill on undocumented students and in-state tuition estimated that in 2005, between 50 and 250 students were enrolled at New Mexico's state universities. In addition, the report estimated an additional 560 high school graduates and 111 GED recipients would be eligible annually. The Boston Globe reported that in the first year the law was in effect, the University of New Mexico system saw just 41 undocumented students enroll.

Utah. A recent policy brief by the Center for Public Policy & Administration at the University of Utah indicates that there were 182 undocumented students enrolled in Utah's public colleges and universities in the 2005-06 school year. Since 2003, when the Utah law was enacted, the number of undocumented students enrolled has more than doubled.

Texas. According to a 2006 report by the Texas Comptroller, the number of students receiving in-state tuition rates in 2004 was nearly 10 times greater than in 2001, the year the law was enacted. Most were enrolled in community colleges. However, these numbers are for all students who established residency for in-state rates, regardless of their immigration status. Data are not available for the number of students representing undocumented immigrants.