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States adjust to let young immigrants pay in-state tuition

Education is important for U.S. citizens and immigrants alike. In some states, young people who were brought to the U.S. when they were young face special difficulties in paying for their education. One major barrier for undocumented immigrants has been the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition. When you have in-state status, you can pay a lower tuition rate, but not all states give in-state status to young immigrants.

New York is one state that has passed a law allowing state residency status for undocumented immigrants. Since the Obama administration's decision to allow most young immigrants to avoid deportation, other states are now taking steps to clarify their own immigration policies regarding in-state residency.

Massachusetts recently clarified its position. Now the estimated 15,000 to 17,000 young immigrants living in Massachusetts can take advantage of the in-state tuition discount. To illustrate how helpful that discount can be, The New York Times compared in-state and out-of-state tuition at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

There, state residents can pay tuition and fees amounting to $13,230, while out-of-state residents have to pay $26,645.

While some states like New York and Massachusetts are clarifying their immigration policies to help young, undocumented immigrants, other states are taking the opposite approach.

South Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Colorado, Arizona and Georgia have all made it a point to bar undocumented immigrants from qualifying for an in-state tuition discount. Alabama passed a law that prohibits young immigrants from even enrolling at state colleges.

It's been reported that since Mitt Romney had promised to repeal the Obama administration's deferment policy, many immigrants were waiting until after the presidential election to come forward. Now, however, young immigrants in New York would do well to take advantage of their right to work and claim in-state residency.

Source: The New York Times, "Immigrants to Pay Tuition at Rate Set for Residents," Richard Pérez-Peña, Nov. 19, 2012

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