Democrats’ vision for free community college would boost undocumented students

To receive the money, though, states could not deny the tuition-free benefits based on “citizenship, alienage, or immigration status.”

That would run afoul of current laws in several states.

Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina prohibit unauthorized immigrants from enrolling in at least some of their public universities and colleges.

Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin bar undocumented students from receiving in-state tuition. Other states impose other restrictions on tuition benefits for undocumented students.

Helping undocumented students develop skills and earn academic degrees has the same benefits for the larger economy as helping other community college students, said Miriam Feldblum, the executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, a group of more than 500 higher education leaders.

“The reason this is a big deal,” Feldblum explained, “is that, up until now, undocumented students have not had access to federal financial aid. They have not been included in federal financial aid or loan programs. They’ve not been included in Pell Grants.”

“But now there’s a new program being considered for free community college tuition, and the administration is recognizing from the very start of this program that there should not be arbitrary barriers set up against undocumented students,” she said.

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