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University of Michigan now offering in-state tuition for Dreamers

The Regents of the University of Michigan have just announced that, beginning in January, it will offer in-state tuition to all resident students regardless of immigration status. Michigan joins New York and 15 other states with policies providing access to higher education for immigrants in some form. Most of the policies were prompted in part to help unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children (referred to as "Dreamers") and have lived essentially as U.S. citizens all their lives, but who are often denied tuition help for college.

The current immigration reform proposal before Congress includes portions of the DREAM Act, which would level the playing field for Dreamers who apply and seek financial aid for college. Until that passes into federal law, however, Dreamers have to rely on individual states and universities to change their policies to be less discriminatory against immigrants.

To qualify for in-state tuition at the University of Michigan, young immigrants will have to have attended a middle school in the state for two years and also attend a Michigan high school for at least three years. Qualification is further limited by a requirement to apply for the U of M within 28 months of graduating from high school. (New York requires Dreamers to attend a state high school for two years in order to qualify.)

Unfortunately, no information is yet available about whether Dreamers will have access to state financial aid or scholarships, which are still barred by federal policy. Nevertheless, offering in-state tuition brings college into reach for many Dreamers who could never afford the full rate.

For example, one Dreamer wrote on the ACLU's Blog of Rights that he had been admitted to the University of Michigan after being brought to the U.S. as a kindergartener and living in Michigan his whole live. In high school, he earned a 3.86 GPA, played varsity soccer, participated in numerous service and scholarly organizations, and was even named homecoming king. He was thrilled to be admitted, but his euphoria was dashed when he realized that as an unauthorized immigrant, he would have to pay $40,392 a year to attend, while other Michigan residents only had to pay $13,142.

Let's congratulate the University of Michigan for welcoming Dreamers into its student body at in-state rates. At the same time, work still needs to be done to ensure that all Dreamers have affordable access to higher education across the nation.

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