In-state College Tuition Policies for Undocumented Immigrants

Implications for High School Enrollment Among Non-Citizen Mexican Youth

Published in: Population Research and Policy Review, v. 33, no. 1, Feb. 2014, p. 13-30

Posted on RAND.org on February 01, 2014

by Robert Bozick, Trey Miller

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This paper examines the secondary effects of policies that extend or deny in-state tuition to children of undocumented immigrants. Drawing upon repeated cross-sections of 15–17-year-olds in the Current Population Survey across 1997–2010, we assess changes in high school enrollment rates among Mexican-born non-citizen youth—a proxy for the undocumented youth population. We find that Mexican-born non-citizen youth living in states that deny in-state tuition benefits to undocumented youth are 49 % less likely to be enrolled in school than their peers living in states with no explicit policy. Conversely, Mexican-born non-citizen youth living in states that grant in-state tuition benefits to undocumented youth are 65 % more likely to be enrolled in school than their peers living in states with no explicit policy. The enactment of these policies is unrelated to changes in school enrollment among naturalized citizens. Our findings lend support to the proposition that that the implementation of in-state tuition policies sends signals to immigrant youth about their future educational possibilities in the long-term, which in turn influences the extent to which they engage in school in the short-term.

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