A day after the Detroit Free Press highlighted undocumented Michigan students’ struggles with tuition costs, the University of Michigan proposed “significant revisions” Monday to allow undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition.
The university seeks to revamp its eligibility requirements to open in-state tuition for any students who have attended Michigan middle and high schools, even if they cannot prove legal residency. This reform could prove crucial for the roughly 29,000 undocumented youths who live in Michigan. Currently, undocumented students must pay as much as three times the in-state rate. They also do not qualify for financial aid or grants.
In a Sunday op-ed, Daniel Alejandro Morales, a formerly undocumented student who is now a junior at University of Michigan, blasted the school for choosing to “reinforce the status quo and effectively deny access to undocumented students.” Morales recounted the story of Javier Contreras, who was denied in-state tuition even though his family has lived and paid taxes in Michigan for 13 years. Because Javier’s status also disqualifies him from federal financial aid or student loans, he had to give up his dream of becoming the first in his family to attend college.
Michigan students forced the university to confront the issue in April, when a protest against the school’s tuition policy resulted in the arrest of seven students and one alumnus.
Tuition costs across the country have become prohibitively expensive for all students, but are even more burdensome for undocumented families, who have a far lower average income than other households. The average undocumented household makes $36,000 a year — far less than a single year of out-of-state tuition at University of Michigan. As a result, only 5 to 10 percent of undocumented high schoolers make it to college, compared to 75 percent of their classmates.
Fifteen states allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates, while only California, Texas, New Mexico, and Minnesota offer financial aid for undocumented students.
On Thursday, the University of Michigan’s Board of Regents voted 6 to 2 to allow undocumented immigrants and military veterans to receive in-state tuition at the school system. The tuition change will take place in January 2014 in Ann Arbor, Flint, and Dearborn.