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Murray, Hirono, Polis, Castro, Introduce Bill to Provide Incentives to States to Offer In-State Tuition for Dreamer Students

 Bill would help undocumented students from low-income backgrounds afford higher education

On average, in-state tuition at public, four-year colleges is $9,139, compared with $22,958 for out-of-state tuition

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO) and Joaquin Castro (D-TX) introduced legislation to expand access to higher education for low-income students, regardless of their immigration status. The Investing in States to Achieve Tuition Equality (IN-STATE) for Dreamers Act of 2015 would establish the American Dream Grant program with $750 million in funding to supplement need-based financial aid in states that offer in-state tuition and state financial aid to Dreamer students, without discriminating based on their immigration status. American Dream Grants would reward states that set equitable tuition and student aid policies and help reduce the cost of college for all students.

“All qualified students who want to work hard, invest in their education and future careers, and give back to their communities should have the same opportunities to get a college degree, regardless of their immigration status,” Senator Murray said. “These students are no different than their classmates. They live in the same towns, attend the same schools, and share the same American dreams – they should have an equal chance to go to college and start successful careers in our country.”

“As Colorado has recognized, students who have put in the hard work and dedication required to get accepted into their home state university deserve access to in-state tuition rates and financial aid, regardless of their immigration status,” said Congressman Polis. “These defacto Americans, who were brought here through no fault of their own and know no other home, deserve to pay the same tuition rate as their neighbors and classmates. While we still need to fix our broken immigration system, increasing access to higher education for DREAMers is a step in the right direction, not only for these students, but for our economy and workforce.”

"Another year has gone by, and countless Dreamers remain in the shadows,” said Senator Hirono. “I’ve heard too many stories of young men and women who just want an opportunity to work hard and contribute to their communities, but cannot afford higher education and are not aware of the resources available to them. While institutions such as the University of Hawaii System already offer in-state tuition and financial aid to Dreamers, this bill will help to ensure that all students have a fair chance at an affordable education regardless of immigration status."

“Young people, regardless of their current immigration status, are the future of our nation, and we all benefit when they receive a higher education,” said Congressman Castro. “This legislation expands the opportunities for hardworking, aspiring Americans to pursue their academic dreams and prepare themselves to contribute to America’s economy. The IN-STATE for DREAMers Act is an important part of the broader reform our broken immigration system requires, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to find additional solutions.”

Read more about IN-STATE for Dreamers Act of 2015 here.

The bill has received wide support from advocates and community organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, American Federation of Teachers, American Association of Community Colleges, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Association of Community College Trustees, Colorado State University, Council on Opportunity in Education, The Education Trust, First Focus Campaign for Children, Jobs for the Future, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, National Association of College Admission Counseling, National Education Association, National Immigration Law Center, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, OneAmerica, Tacoma Community House, United States Student Association, United We Dream, University of Hawaii System, University of Washington, Washington State Commission of Hispanic Affairs, Washington State University, and Young Invincibles.

“As a Mexican-American who grew up working in the fields of California's San Joaquin Valley, I know first-hand that education is the key to opportunity, productivity and upward mobility. Each year 1.8 million students are discouraged from enrolling in public colleges and universities, forced to pay out-of-state tuition in the state they call home. Many undocumented students drop out of school or don’t pursue postsecondary education. The IN-STATE for Dreamers Act of 2015, introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO), would bring a college education within reach for these students. Our country and our economy can no longer afford to abandon them.” said José Luis Santos, vice president for Higher Education Policy and Practice for Education Trust.

“Educators welcome the legislative proposal offered by Senator Patty Murray and Representative Jared Polis to allow America’s high-achieving students – our Dreamers – to go to college, pursue a professional career, contribute to our nation’s economic prosperity, and achieve the American dream,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Educators across the nation work with Dreamers every day. They proudly are our salutatorians, valedictorians, future engineers, doctors, and, yes, educators. That’s why we have demanded – and will continue to demand –swift action in Congress on comprehensive immigration reform. This is not only necessary but is morally the right thing to do for our students, their families, and our nation.”

“The United States Student Association is more proud than ever before to voice our adamant support for Senator Murray and Congressman Polis in their outstanding efforts to extend education as a right to undocumented students. Their unwavering commitment to the undocumented community is one that we wish to be emanated amongst the rest of their Congressional peers, as their introduction of the IN-STATE for Dreamers Act of 2015 proves that they are two of the few true champions of educational justice for all,” said Justin Habler, Legislative Director at the United States Student Association

“Investing in higher education reaps big rewards not only for students, but for our communities and economy as well.  The IN-STATE for Dreamers Act encourages states to ensure that these students can complete their education, develop their skills and maximize their contributions in the future,” said Kamal Essaheb, Immigration Policy Attorney for the National Immigration Law Center.

“As open access institutions, community colleges play an essential role in providing opportunities for all types of students to attain a postsecondary degree or credential. Despite offering relatively low-cost tuition, many of our low- and moderate-income students still face challenges in paying for educational and living expenses. Need-based aid enables these students to achieve their educational goals. For Dreamers, the financial barriers to accessing higher education remain significant in many states. The IN-STATE for Dreamers Act of 2015 supports both access and completion by providing assistance to states that wish to offer in-state tuition and need-based financial aid to Dreamers. Since 2003, ACCT has supported legislation allowing states the option to offer in-state tuition to Dreamers. ACCT commends Senator Murray for her efforts, and supports this important piece of legislation,” said J. Noah Brown, President & CEO of the Association of Community College Trustees.

"Access to educational opportunity is the foundation of the American Dream. By allowing undocumented students to receive in-state tuition rates and financial aid assistance, the IN-STATE for Dreamers Act of 2015 provides students the opportunity to reach their potential through access to higher education.  This legislation, regardless of immigration status, invests in the talent of today to create economic prosperity for tomorrow," said Maureen Hoyler, President of The Council for Opportunity in Education.

Read the full legislative text of the bill here.