Last night, Rhode Island became the 13th state to approve a policy that would allow the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition. Under the new policy, in-state rates would be available only to illegal immigrants’ children who have attended a high school in the state for at least three years and have earned a diploma. Under the provision, they’ll also have to commit to seek legal status once they are eligible or risk losing resident tuition status.
What does this mean to undocumented students? For some, it translates into the ability to afford a college education. Currently, in-state undergraduate tuition at the University of Rhode Island is $9,824, compared to $25,912 for out-of-state students. Gov. Lincoln Chafee supported the board measure Sunday saying it would improve the state’s “intellectual and cultural life” and allow more Rhode Islanders to attend college.
But not everyone was in agreement with the governor’s sentiments. Several speakers objected to the policy on Monday including Terry Gorman, executive director of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement, who said that the policy change would be akin to "aiding and abetting" illegal immigrants. "I've met a lot of these students," Gorman said. "My heart goes out to them, but their parents put them in this situation." The new policy will take effect in 2012.