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Bill would help undocumented students from low-income backgrounds afford higher education

On average, in-state tuition at public, four-year colleges is $9,139, compared with $22,958 for out-of-state tuition

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced legislation to expand access to higher education for low-income students, regardless of their immigration status. The Investing in States to Achieve Tuition Equality (IN-STATE) for Dreamers Act of 2015 would establish the American Dream Grant program with $750 million in funding to supplement need-based financial aid in states that offer in-state tuition and state financial aid to Dreamer students, without discriminating based on their immigration status. American Dream Grants would reward states that set equitable tuition and student aid policies and help reduce the cost of college for all students.

“All qualified students who want to work hard, invest in their education and future careers, and give back to their communities should have the same opportunities to get a college degree, regardless of their immigration status,” Senator Murray said. “These students are no different than their classmates. They live in the same towns, attend the same schools, and share the same American dreams – they should have an equal chance to go to college and start successful careers in our country.”

Last year, Governor Jay Inslee signed into law the REAL Hope Act making Washington one of only five states that allow undocumented students to qualify for both in-state tuition and state financial aid. The state has granted in-state tuition to undocumented students since 2003.

Read more about IN-STATE for Dreamers Act of 2015 .

The bill has received wide support from advocates and community organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, American Federation of Teachers, American Association of Community Colleges, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Association of Community College Trustees, Colorado State University, Council on Opportunity in Education, The Education Trust, First Focus Campaign for Children, Jobs for the Future, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, National Association of College Admission Counseling, National Education Association, National Immigration Law Center, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, OneAmerica, Tacoma Community House, United States Student Association, United We Dream, University of Hawaii System, University of Washington, Washington State Commission of Hispanic Affairs, Washington State University, and Young Invincibles.

“We applaud Senator Murray for her efforts to advance the IN-STATE for Dreamers Act of 2015. This legislation recognizes the barriers facing aspiring new Americans who were brought to this country as children, were raised as Americans, and now face challenging prospects for their future in the only home they know because of their immigration status. We hope that other states will follow the 20 states that now extend in-state tuition for Dreamers, and those states that have taken the additional step of allowing these young Americans to apply for state financial assistance for higher education. Washington State is proud to be a leader in this regard,” said Rich Stolz, Executive Director, OneAmerica

“Each year, millions of students graduate from American highs schools and approximately 65,000 of these students are undocumented. The IN-STATE for Dreamers Act of 2015 would grant access to an affordable higher education to all hard working students, regardless of their immigration status and allow them to reach their full potential. We applaud Senator Murray and Congressman Polis for their leadership in this issue,” said Ana Mari Cauce, Interim President at the University of Washington.

“This legislation will open the doors of opportunity to the many students, who have successfully and meritoriously completed their secondary schooling, and want the same access to the American Dream that their peers have. It is time to provide access to this option so they can become full participants and contributing members of our society,” said Sheila Edwards Lange, Vice President for Minority Affairs and Vice Provost for Diversity at the University of Washington.

“Access and affordability for all of our students is a priority of WSU, regardless of immigrant status.  Washington State University will continue to work with Senator Murray  to support the goal of creating opportunity for first generation students to get the education they need to create the next generation of leaders,” said Melynda Huskey, Interim VP for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Washington State University.

"We commend Senator Murray for introducing this bill and helping to ensure that young people in communities around our country have increased access to higher education.  We know that increased educational opportunities will allow these students to make even greater contributions to our society, benefiting all of us," said Jorge L. Baron, Executive Direct of Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

“Tacoma Community House fully supports the IN-STATE for Dreamers Act of 2015. Here at TCH, we see many outstanding young people who have studied and worked hard, excelled academically but lack access to financial support for higher education. This bill would provide more funding for financial aid to these deserving students, who can then give back to this country with the skills and education they have gained,” said Liz Begert Dunbar, Executive Director of the Tacoma Community House. 

“As a Mexican-American who grew up working in the fields of California's San Joaquin Valley, I know first-hand that education is the key to opportunity, productivity and upward mobility. Each year 1.8 million students are discouraged from enrolling in public colleges and universities, forced to pay out-of-state tuition in the state they call home. Many undocumented students drop out of school or don’t pursue postsecondary education. The IN-STATE for Dreamers Act of 2015, introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO), would bring a college education within reach for these students. Our country and our economy can no longer afford to abandon them,” said José Luis Santos, vice president for Higher Education Policy and Practice for Education Trust.

“Educators welcome the legislative proposal offered by Senator Patty Murray and Representative Jared Polis to allow America’s high-achieving students – our Dreamers – to go to college, pursue a professional career, contribute to our nation’s economic prosperity, and achieve the American dream,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García.

“Educators across the nation work with Dreamers every day. They proudly are our salutatorians, valedictorians, future engineers, doctors, and, yes, educators. That’s why we have demanded – and will continue to demand –swift action in Congress on comprehensive immigration reform. This is not only necessary but is morally the right thing to do for our students, their families, and our nation.”

“The United States Student Association is more proud than ever before to voice our adamant support for Senator Murray and Congressman Polis in their outstanding efforts to extend education as a right to undocumented students. Their unwavering commitment to the undocumented community is one that we wish to be emanated amongst the rest of their Congressional peers, as their introduction of the IN-STATE for Dreamers Act of 2015 proves that they are two of the few true champions of educational justice for all,” said Justin Habler, Legislative Director at the United States Student Association

“Investing in higher education reaps big rewards not only for students, but for our communities and economy as well.  The IN-STATE for Dreamers Act encourages states to ensure that these students can complete their education, develop their skills and maximize their contributions in the future,” said Kamal Essaheb, Immigration Policy Attorney for the National Immigration Law Center.

“As open access institutions, community colleges play an essential role in providing opportunities for all types of students to attain a postsecondary degree or credential. Despite offering relatively low-cost tuition, many of our low- and moderate-income students still face challenges in paying for educational and living expenses. Need-based aid enables these students to achieve their educational goals. For Dreamers, the financial barriers to accessing higher education remain significant in many states. The IN-STATE for Dreamers Act of 2015 supports both access and completion by providing assistance to states that wish to offer in-state tuition and need-based financial aid to Dreamers. Since 2003, ACCT has supported legislation allowing states the option to offer in-state tuition to Dreamers. ACCT commends Senator Murray for her efforts, and supports this important piece of legislation,” said J. Noah Brown, President & CEO of the Association of Community College Trustees.

"Access to educational opportunity is the foundation of the American Dream. By allowing undocumented students to receive in-state tuition rates and financial aid assistance, the IN-STATE for Dreamers Act of 2015 provides students the opportunity to reach their potential through access to higher education.  This legislation, regardless of immigration status, invests in the talent of today to create economic prosperity for tomorrow," said Maureen Hoyler, President of The Council for Opportunity in Education.

Read the full legislative text of the bill here