Key Voices Call for Massachusetts to Expand In-State Tuition and Financial Aid Eligibility for Immigrant Students

For Immediate Release: July 20, 2023

Contact: Jason Koh,

At Joint Legislative Hearing, Key Voices Call for Massachusetts to Expand In-State Tuition and Financial Aid Eligibility for Immigrant Students

BOSTON — This year, Massachusetts lawmakers are considering expanding eligibility for in-state tuition and state financial aid to more undocumented students graduating from Massachusetts high schools. Current state law limits eligibility to students with active Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, which now bars new applicants into the program due to legal challenges. As a result, state law excludes the vast majority of the 3,000 Dreamers graduating high school annually in the Commonwealth from in-state tuition access.

On Tuesday, the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Higher Education held a hearing on the policy, at which state and national leaders weighed in to emphasize why expanding eligibility would strengthen the state. Among the key voices who spoke or drafted testimony included:

Dr. Lane A. Glenn, President of Northern Essex Community College and Presidents’ Alliance member, delivered powerful testimony on behalf of the Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges, noting in part:

“Nearly a third of our STEM workers, as well as a significant number of healthcare workers and educated workers in other industries, are first-generation immigrants. By moving aggressively to provide in-state tuition and access to financial aid for these undocumented students, Massachusetts will close the economic competitiveness gap with other states and take important steps toward better preparing the workforce we need right now, and in the future.”

Miriam Feldblum, Executive Director, Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, delivered written testimony that noted:

“Allowing undocumented students to access in-state tuition makes economic, educational, and practical sense. Massachusetts strengthens the social fabric of its populus in doing so as this policy would result in positive impacts on education access, economic growth, workforce development, retention of talent, entrepreneurship, innovation, and the Commonwealth’s overall competitive advantage.”

Donald Graham, former Washington Post publisher and co-founder of TheDream.US scholarship program for Dreamers testified, noting in part: 

“I’m glad to testify, but the more eloquent spokespeople are the students sitting in this room. They are great young people. They went to high school in Massachusetts but I can also tell you that most of them went to first grade in Massachusetts. The average student in our scholarship program came to the United States at age four or five … The cost to the Commonwealth will be about zero. The benefit will start with the tuition they will pay but will become much greater down the years … This legislation, yes, will benefit the Dreamers. But it will also benefit all the people of Massachusetts.” 

Several Massachusetts students were in attendance at the hearing to demonstrate their support for the proposed policy, including Caio Rodrigues, a Massachusetts student who came to this country at age three. Caio writes:

“I graduated from high school in Somerville, MA, and now attend Bunker Hill Community College in Boston. I take a few classes at a time because it’s all I can afford. I have a GPA of 3.95 on a 4.0 scale and joined the honors society … I missed the opportunity to apply for DACA, this was out of my control because a federal judge in Texas halted new applications … My educational goal is to earn a doctorate in Astronautical Engineering and to follow that with a career in rocket science … I can’t wait for in-state tuition and aid to become a reality, so I can be a full-time student.”

The powerful support on display at Tuesday’s hearing is just the latest indication of broad support for the proposed policy. Related legislative text was included in the Massachusetts Senate-approved budget proposal that is currently being negotiated by the FY 2024 Budget Conference Committee. Among the additional relevant content and indications of support include:

  • Analysis on cost, economic, and fiscal benefits:

    • As a National Immigration Law Center (NILC) analysis of other states’ in-state tuition policies assessed: “the cost of implementing them has been negligible. In-state tuition is not the same as free tuition. It is a discount, but in fact the money paid by these students often increases school revenues because it represents income that the institutions would not otherwise receive.” 
    • As Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues noted in May, there are no costs attached to the in-state tuition proposal and it’s actually “income-generating.” 
    • A recent Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation report underscored the larger revenue and economic benefits of the proposed policy: “MTF estimates that expanding access to in-state tuition rates to undocumented students could generate $2.6 to $3.5 million in new revenue for community colleges, state universities, and the University of Massachusetts in the policy’s first year of implementation.

Additional Resources and Background



The nonpartisan, nonprofit Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration brings college and university presidents and chancellors together on the immigration issues that impact higher education, our students, campuses, communities and nation. We work to advance just immigration policies and practices at the federal, state, and campus level that are consistent with our heritage as a nation of immigrants and the academic values of equity and openness. The Alliance is composed of over 550 presidents and chancellors of public and private colleges and universities, enrolling over five million students in 43 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico.