Massachusetts is poised to expand higher education access for young undocumented immigrants who call the commonwealth home. Included in the state’s budget for 2024 is a proposal broadening the number of local Dreamers who can qualify for in-state tuition rates at Massachusetts public and private universities.
Currently, only beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program qualify for in-state rates, national scholarship fund The Dream.US said. “As a result, the state in recent years has excluded the vast majority of the 3,000 Dreamers graduating high school annually in the Commonwealth from in-state tuition access, as most lack DACA status.” The proposal will likely become reality. Democratic Gov. Maura Healey “has been a strong advocate for tuition equity for Dreamers,” the organization said.
“Gratitude flows towards the lawmakers who’ve steered Massachusetts and our nation towards progress, strengthening the futures of both Massachusetts Dreamers and the Commonwealth in the process,” said Gaby Pacheco, a long-time immigration champion and Director of Advocacy, Development, and Communications at The Dream.US. “We now look forward to celebrating even more when Governor Healey signs this budget into law.”
“To immigrant youth in Massachusetts and across the country, hear this loud and clear: you belong, you are cherished, and this country is your home,” Pacheco continued.
Nice celebration of #TuitionEquityAct passing in FY24 budget that House & @MA_Senate passed today, a 20-year battle for #Dreamers & immigrant families to afford college! So grateful to @KarenSpilka for championing this, & @MIRACoalition for leading coalition to pass bill! #mapoli pic.twitter.com/kwceJnnVjz
— Jamie Eldridge (@JamieEldridgeMA) July 31, 2023
“Massachusetts lawmakers, educators, immigration groups, and business leaders have been agitating for the change with increasing fervor over the past few years,” CommonWealth Magazine noted. But the proposal received a major boost following Gov. Healey’s win last year. She said this past May that undocumented students “have been here their entire lives, have gone through K-to-12, but then find themselves without an opportunity to afford continuing on in college.”
Beyond helping young people reach their higher education dreams, the policy stands to be an economic winner for the commonwealth, too. CommonWealth Magazine said that a Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation analysis found that local colleges would gain $3.5 million in new revenue. Local businesses will also benefit from a more qualified workforce, and at a time when a number of industries are facing critical labor shortages.
“We’re on the brink of an inspiring era, as nearly half of the 50 states have passed in state tuition and state aid policies,” The Dream.US said. Should it become law, it’ll become the latest pro-immigrant action by Massachusetts. The commonwealth officially opened driver’s licenses to qualified undocumented residents last month. The legislature had overridden a veto by former Republican Gov. Charlie Baker last year. Massachusetts voters then defended the law after anti-immigrant activists and their allies in the legislature tried to repeal it at the ballot box during the midterms.
In today’s formal session the House voted to expand in-state tuition to all MA residents, regardless of immigration status. As a former DACA recipient, I fought for equal treatment since my high school days. I am proud to have voted to remove this barrier to higher education. pic.twitter.com/l3DNmZ2Q8H
— Danillo A. Sena (@RepDanSenaMA) July 31, 2023
The budget now goes to Gov. Healey for review. Advocates and lawmakers appear to be hopeful.
“Massachusetts is now one step closer to ensuring that higher education is far more equitable and accessible for all residents, regardless of immigration status,” Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition Executive Director Elizabeth Sweet told CommonWealth Magazine. “By allowing all eligible immigrants the opportunity to access in-state tuition and financial aid at public colleges and universities, Massachusetts will not only empower immigrant communities but increase school attendance and better prepare our workforce for the future.”