Patrick Pushes In-State Tuition For Undocumented Immigrants

By Sarah Birnbaum

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Jul. 21, 2011

BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick is emphasizing his support for legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants living in Massachusetts to pay in-state tuition to attend the state's public colleges and universities.

On Wednesday, the governor made a surprise visit to a public hearing on the bill, which would allow students who attended high school in Massachusetts for at least three years, and who are petitioning for legal residency or citizenship, to pay in-state tuition at Massachusetts colleges and universities. 

“We’re talking about real people, individuals and students and families, whose ambitions are caught up in the only community they know – which is the same one we share,” said Patrick. 

Among those testifying was Isabel Varjas from Lawrence. Her parents brought her here from the Dominican Republic when she was eight years old. Because of her undocumented status, she’s not entitled to in-state tuition rates and therefore, she says, she can’t afford to go to college.  

“The day that I graduated, I saw all the 56 girls walking and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to go to college. And it killed me, because I grew up here and it didn’t make sense how this state and this country .. how I’m still nothing.  It was like a wall that I can never climb over, and it was really really hard,” Varjas said.

Supporters of the bill say children brought to the United States at a young age through no fault of their own deserve access to higher education. Opponents say the bill would benefit students who shouldn’t be here in the first place and rewards illegal behavior.  

In state tuition at the University of Massachusetts Amherst this fall is  is $12, 612.  While out of state students are charged $25,400.    

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