Study: Allowing immigrants to pay in-state tuition is cost-effective for Virginia

Virginia Mercury

A new study by the Commonwealth Institute suggests that allowing students with deferred action immigration status to pay in-state tuition at Virginia colleges and universities does not create a cost burden for the state.

In the fall of 2017, there were only 418 students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, status at the state’s four-year public schools, and 995 at Virginia’s community colleges. Of those, 96 percent qualified for in-state tuition.

There were even fewer students with Temporary Protective Status, or TPS. Only 27 attended four-year schools, and 22 paid in-state tuition. Data on those with TPS status in community colleges was unavailable, according to the report.

“These enrollment numbers show that any concerns that Virginians with DACA and TPS status would overwhelm Virginia’s public colleges are unfounded,” the report states.

There are, however, significant benefits to the state in allowing those students to access higher education, particular in that they become “more productive future employees and Virginians,” according to the report.

The new data paves the way for the General Assembly to take action, according to the Commonwealth Institute, as students face the potential end of the DACA program and non-renewal for people with TPS status.

Without those programs, students would be ineligible for in-state tuition unless the legislature expands in-state tuition status to Virginia residents regardless of their immigration status.

“Creating real opportunity for all Virginians to pursue a college education provides significant returns to the students and the state without being a significant burden on Virginia’s colleges or taxpayers,” Laura Goren, research director of the Commonwealth Institute, said in a news release.