Submitted On: Thursday, September 29, 2016
Analyst: Ferruci, Stephen
In March 2016, the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee heard testimony on SB-147: An Act Assisting Students Without Legal Immigration Status With The Cost Of College. SB-147, which has since been approved by the Senate (it awaits action by the House), gives certain students “who lack legal immigration status to be able to access institutional financial assistance.” These students would still need to meet in-state eligibility requirements, including residing in Connecticut, attending and graduating from a Connecticut High School, or the equivalent, and being registered as a students at a state institution of higher education. If the bill becomes law, these students will be eligible for tuition wavers and remissions and student employment. Support for the bill was widespread, including official support from the President of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities and many members of the community. This current bill builds on Connecticut’s commitment to undocumented students, which was initially enacted through Public Act No. 11-43. PA 11-43, signed into law in 2011, allows most residents, regardless of immigration status, to be eligible for in-state tuition, if they meet residency requirements. If SB-147 is signed into law, Connecticut will become one of only a handful of states (including California, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas and Washington) that allow state financial aid to undocumented students.
Approximately 18 other states offer in-state tuition, legislatively, to undocumented students who are residents of their states, while, as of 2015, Oklahoma and Rhode Island allow such students to receive in-state tuition through direct Board of Education action. The laws passed by these states contravene federal law, which stipulates that “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State (or a political subdivision) for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident.” However, the federal DREAM ACT would seem to open up greater possibilities for undocumented students, if it ever passes into law.