Toolkit | Access to Postsecondary Education

Toolkit | Access to Postsecondary Education


TOOLKIT CONTENTSFraming the Message: Improving Access to Higher Education for a State’s High School Graduates, Regardless of Their Status

Letters, Testimony & Videos

Fact Sheets & One-Pagers

Action Alerts

News Articles & News Videos

Improving Access to Higher Education for a State’s High School Graduates, Regardless of Their Status

The following resources frame some of the arguments in support of policies that provide access to in-state tuition for a state’s high school graduates, regardless of their immigration status.

In-State Tuition for Immigrant Students (pp. 22-35 of appendix to Report to [New Jersey] Governor Jon S. Corzine Submitted by the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel on Immigrant Policy, undated). (Corzine was governor of New Jersey from 2006 to 2010.)

  • “[D]enying a qualified student effective access to higher education imposes a lifelong disadvantage on that individual and deprives the state of that resident’s intellectual capital.”
  • Allowing undocumented graduates of New Jersey high schools to pay in-state tuition rates “will provide a powerful incentive for these students to successfully complete high school and go on to obtain a college degree.”
  • “Maintaining a well-educated workforce is integral to New Jersey’s economic vitality as demand for high-skilled labor begins to outpace supply.”
  • “Higher education is a necessary precursor to accessing higher paying jobs . . . .”
  • “Increasing the educational attainment of the workforce may therefore decrease unemployment rates, increase tax contributions from as many individuals as possible, and thus contributes directly to the support of in-state social services. Some of the extended social benefits may include lower rates of incarceration and increased civic participation.”
  • “In New Jersey, approximately one-third of children in immigrant families—documented and undocumented—live in low-income families. These financial barriers are magnified in undocumented families, however, whose average income is about 40 percent lower than that of legal immigrant and native families.”
  • “Because many [undocumented children living in New Jersey] were brought to the United States at a young age, they may have acclimated culturally and socially to the local community, and may be, as a practical matter, indistinguishable from their native born peers.”
  • “Unlike out-of-state students who are U.S. citizens, and who would have access to in-state tuition in their home state but choose to attend a public institution in New Jersey, immigrant students who reside in New Jersey have no other option to affordable public education.”
  • “[T]he reality of the demands of the current job market is that a high school diploma in itself is often insufficient to permit the student to be an effective and productive entrant in the state workforce.”

The Case for Undocumented Students in Higher Education (Fermín Mendoza, Educators for Fair Consideration).

This 13-page report cites student profiles, educator observations, enrollment data at California postsecondary institutions, legal precedents, labor statistics, and public opinion polling results to support the following talking points:

  • “Undocumented students who pursue higher education have proven they can succeed.”
  • “We want the most entrepreneurial and industrious students to attend our universities.”
  • “Undocumented students are powerful role models.”
  • “Undocumented students affirm our American belief in the value of hard work.”
  • “We have already invested in these students’ educations and should maximize the dividends.”
  • “When the DREAM Act passes, students will have a path to legal residency and work.”
  • “Undocumented students are an important part of our future economic stability.”

Victory: Maryland DREAM Act (Action in Montgomery, or AIM).

AIM’s slogan is “Organizing People Power and Working for Justice in Montgomery County, Maryland.”

“AIM helped secure Governor O’Malley’s commitment to pass the DREAM Act at an action with over 750 people from the Maryland Industrial Areas Foundation.”

What is the Maryland Dream Act? (Montgomery College)

“The law allows Maryland high school graduates who are undocumented immigrants, U.S. citizens, and other statuses the opportunity to qualify for the lowest tuition rates at their public colleges and universities upon meeting certain eligibility requirements and submitting required documentation.”


Extensive samples of written testimony in support of tuition equity and state DREAM bills may be found at Substitute for H.B. No. 6390: An Act Concerning Access to Postsecondary Education (2011) (Connecticut General Assembly) and at HB2053 (2012) (Hawaii State Legislature).

Samples from these sources are highlighted below.

Elected Officials

Written Testimony in Support of H.B. 6390 (John DeStefano Jr., Mayor, City of New Haven, March 15, 2011).

  • “Connecticut can best position itself to win the future and set a course for economic growth and wealth creation by removing barriers and providing better access to higher education for all our kids—native born and immigrant[—]because in our increasingly knowledge based economy the muscle in our heads is much more important than the muscle in our backs.”
  • “Connecticut has a fast growing population of Baby Boomers. Between 2000 and 2030 retirees are expected to grow by 69 percent and a comparatively small number of young U.S.-born workers are available to replace them in the workforce. But the immigrant population is growing quickly and expected to boost the number of young, employable adults.”
  • Immigrants that come to this country are hard workers, entrepreneurs that create jobs. It is worth noting that in America between 1990 and 2005 immigrants started ¼ of all venture backed companies.

Educators & Education Administrators

Testimony Before the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee (James Schmotter, President, Western Connecticut State University, March 15, 2011).

  • “The young people who will benefit from this change want, unlike many, to stay in our state and build careers and lives here. With the solid education gained at our public colleges and universities, they will be our future scientists, business owners, teachers, and nurses. It is not only in their interest, but in the interest of all citizens of Connecticut that they have this opportunity.”
  • “House Bill 6390 is also an example of the inclusive spirit that, over the decades, has attracted millions of immigrants to our shores—immigrants who have built today’s America. That history of immigration is full of pendulum swings between restrictions and welcome. In this small way, we can push it toward the latter here in Connecticut. For reasons both moral and economic, it is the right thing to do.”

Testimony in Support of H.B. 6390 (Elizabeth Keenan, Associate Professor, Southern Connecticut State University, March 15, 2011).

  • “Two students, classmates conceivably through their 12 years of schooling in Connecticut, distinguished academically, having passed the rigorous admissions process for a Connecticut public university[,] are treated differently once they accept their invitation to a postsecondary education at a state institution. One student must pay anywhere between two to three times their classmate’s tuition rate because one student was brought into the country as a baby without documentation, the other classmate was born here. Since undocumented students are ineligible for financial aid, students must come up with the out-of-state tuition fees themselves. This cost is prohibitive for most students.”

Immigrant & Civil Rights Groups

Testimony in Support of Governor’s Bill 6390 (Connecticut Regional Office of the Anti-Defamation League, March 15, 2011).

  • “In our experience, injustice against any individual or group of people not only hurts the individuals it targets, but negatively impacts the environment in which it arises and the community as a whole. Providing access to in-state tuition status to immigrants living in Connecticut sends a clear message to the community that disparate treatment based on immigration status is impermissible, and will deliver a powerful deterrent signal to those who may contemplate acting on their prejudices and violating the civil and human rights of any individuals residing here.”

Testimony in Strong Support of H.B. 2053, Relating to the University of Hawaii (ACLU of Hawaii,  January 31, 2012). (The testimony begins on the 12th page of the PDF available at the hyperlink.)

  • “In the words of the Supreme Court, ‘the illegal alien of today may well be the legal alien of tomorrow…[W]ithout an education, these undocumented children, [a]lready disadvantaged as a result of poverty, lack of English-speaking ability, and undeniable racial  prejudices, … will become locked into the lowest socio-economic class.’ Allowing this large and growing group of individuals to remain in poverty without access to higher education is wrong for Hawaii.” (Citation omitted. All elipses and brackets copied verbatim from the ACLU’s testimony.)
  • “Unlike the classmates they have grown up next to, [for them] pursuing a college education [isn’t] just a matter of working hard and achieving. Instead, they face many roadblocks in their path to success: crushing financial burdens, discriminatory enrollment policies, the inability to work, and constantly-looming threat of deportation.”
  • “Higher education is critical for young people to achieve their fullest potential. Immigrant students covered by H.B. 2053 have limitless potential. They are often talented high achievers who grew up in Hawaii and overcame challenging odds to graduate from high school and secure admission to a public university.”
  • “The ideals of fairness and equal opportunity on which this nation has thrived are on the side of H.B. 2053, which offers students a chance to harness their capabilities to endeavors and achievements that will help our state grow.”

Support of HB 2053, Relating to the University of Hawaii (Catholic Charities Hawaii, January 31, 2012). (The testimony begins on the 11th page of the PDF available at the hyperlink.)

  • “These are youth who have lived in the United States for most of their lives and want nothing more to be recognized for what they are, Americans. We believe this bill represents Hawaii’s true values as an island culture, which welcomes diversity and fair treatment.”

Testimony Submitted in Support of H.B. 6390: An Act Concerning Access to Postsecondary Education (Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School, March 15, 2011).

  • “The issue of this bill’s legality has already been litigated. The California Supreme Court ruled last year that an almost identical law was perfectly legal, and that law is in operation in California today.


Statement in support of HB 6390 (Paul Filson, Director, Service Employees International Union Connecticut State Council, March 15, 2012).

  • HB 6390 “aims to correct an injustice that exists in Connecticut.”
  • HB 6390 “provides a common sense approach towards allowing the undocumented children of undocumented immigrants the right to attend college for the in state tuition.”
  • “These kids, when accepted to college, have earned this benefit. Their parents have paid taxes, contributed to their communities and these kids have done well enough in school to move forward. Denying them in state tuition as well as Federal aid effectively denies many of them the right to attend college.”
  • “Education is the best way to grow our economy and to grow the pool of productive workers for Connecticut.”


Testimony in Support of H.B. 6390 (Kelly Albuquerque DaRosa, student, University of Connecticut, March 15, 2011).

  • The student, a U.S. citizen with Portuguese immigrant parents, discusses her family’s hardships in paying for college. “From the age of 16, I worke[d] three part-time jobs and made honors every semester. I was able to complete my bachelor’s degree in 2 years while working part-time in a factory. It was a struggle for me and I was getting charged in-state tuition. . . . If I am struggling and am an American citizen being charged in-state tuition, I cannot imagine these children from immigrant families, who unjustly are being charged out-of-state tuition.”
  • “As a Family Service Worker, I remember working with an undocumented mother. I asked her how I could assist her. . . . [B]ut then she began to cry. I asked her why she was crying and she stated ‘all I want for my son is that he gets the education I was not able to and is able to live a better life, yet I fear the day I will have to tell him he cannot go to college because he was not born here and I don’t know if we will be able to afford it.’ I remember fighting back my tears because I all I could think about is looking at my baby girl and telling her that she could not further pursue her education. Could you bring yourselves to tell your children that? We should not judge these individuals[’] motives for coming to the United States until we ourselves have walked in [their] shoes.”

Religious & Faith-based Groups

Testimony on Senate Bill #6390 (Dahlia Sajuti and Jashua Mason Pawelek, Greater Hartford Interfaith Coalition for Equity and Justice, May 15, 2011).

  • Testimony submitted on behalf of the 27 member congregations of the interfaith coalition.
  • “[W]e feel strongly that a country that prides itself on being a ‘nation of immigrants’ ought to do everything in its power to welcome and befriend new immigrants and their children, to offer them, whenever possible, the same blessings of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness we offer to all citizens. Such welcome and such blessings are the hallmark of a just and loving society—not a society that tears people down and crushes them, but a society that builds people up and enables them to succeed.”

Other Supportive Individuals or Groups

Testimony in Support of HB 2053 (Sue Haglund, January 30, 2012). (The testimony begins on the 22nd page of the PDF available at the hyperlink.)

  • “So how does this benefit the University of Hawaii? Make access to education affordable to an untapped population who want to pursue a college education at the rate of in-state tuition, then you generate an educated skilled labor workforce from scientists to entrepreneurs that will generate untapped revenue for the State of Hawaii because of the opportunity to access higher education at an affordable cost.”

Written Testimony in Support of H.B. 2053 (Ryder Onopa). (The testimony begins on the 21st page of the PDF available at the hyperlink.)

  • “In order for my generation of physicians to provide care for the aging and retiring baby boomers, we urgently need bright, dedicated students to pursue their interests in biology and medicine.”
  • “[T]he [Hawaii] DREAM act would take a significant step toward allowing non-native students, who would otherwise be denied it due to their immigration status, the chance at a higher education and career in providing for the health of our islands.”
  • “These students, many of whom come from precisely the demographics that need care most, are largely shut out of med school due to the cost as a non-resident: the DREAM act would remove this barrier, and could significantly impact the future of healthcare in the islands.”


Washington State DREAM Act: Providing Opportunity to All Students Is an Investment in Washington’s Future (OneAmerica) and It’s the Economy: Contributions of Immigrants to Washington’s Economy and the Washington State DREAM Act (Washington State Student Association and OneAmerica).

Two fact sheets in one. The first is introduced thusly: “Education is the cornerstone of our democracy. In Washington State, we have long valued education, fairness, and diversity. The Washington State DREAM Act would build on these values by extending state-based financial aid to our state’s young aspiring citizens, capitalizing on their potential while strengthening our state’s economy.” The second is introduced thusly: “Nearly 1 in 6 Washingtonians are Asian or Latino — Asian and Latino entrepreneurs and consumers add tens of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs to Washington’s economy. The Washington State DREAM Act (access to state-based financial aid for Washington’s young aspiring citizens) is critical to providing our workforce with the skills and knowledge necessary to compete in a global economy.”

Fact Sheet: An Overview of College-bound Undocumented Students (Educators for Fair Consideration, updated January 2012).

Two-page fact sheet includes general characteristics and estimates of the number of undocumented students in the U.S., financial challenges faced by students pursuing a college education, list of states with tuition equity laws and those denying in-state tuition rates to undocumented students, policies of private colleges and universities toward undocumented students, summary of federal laws on access to education for immigrant students and those protecting student records, and a list of additional resources.

New York Dream Act (S.4179/A.6829) Information Sheet (New York State Youth Leadership Council).

Two-pager summarizes the intent of the New York Dream Act, explains the need for and impact of the proposed legislation, describes the eligibility requirements that must be satisfied, and debunks “myths” with “facts” about the act.


Day of Action for Tuition Equity at Oregon State Capitol This Tuesday (Causa, February 17, 2012).

Describes the business to be discussed at the meeting, invitees, location and time, background on the tuition equity bill, eligibility requirements, and organizations/coalitions supporting the bill.


You Don’t Speak for Me (video uploaded May 14, 2011).

  • Video features Kansas students and graduates who are U.S. citizens speaking in support of Kansas’s tuition equity law.

Dream Act for New York (New York Times editorial, March 12, 2012).

  • Argues that New York should join three other states in providing access to financial aid for students regardless of status, by making them eligible for the state’s Tuition Assistance Program.
  • Targets Governor Cuomo, who has been “on the sidelines, studying the legislation.”
  • Declares that New York has “long been a global beacon for immigrants and a leader in higher education.”
  • Points out that New York’s Dream Act would add only 2 percent (roughly $17 million) to the cost of the Tuition Assistance Program.

Tech Titans Fund Undocumented Students (Miriam Jordan, Wall Street Journal, March 6, 2012).

  • Impatient with Congress’s inaction on the DREAM Act, a group of Silicon Valley technology leaders, including Jeff Hawkins (inventor of the Palm Pilot), Andrew Grove (cofounder of Intel Corp.), Mark Leslie (founder of former Veritas Software Corp.), and Laurene Powell Jobs (widow of Apple Inc.’s cofounder Steve Jobs), are helping undocumented immigrant students pay for college through donations to the nonprofit Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC).
  • Through donations, E4FC gives scholarships, career advice, and legal services to undocumented immigrant students.
  • The donors are also studying the possibility of using unpaid internships as a way for students to come to the attention of employers who might later sponsor them for a work visa.

Amy Goodman interviews Azadeh Shahshahani, ACLU of Georgia, and Keish Kim, Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance (Democracy Now!, March 6, 2012).

  • Journalist Amy Goodman interviews Azadeh Shahshahani concerning a measure that would have banned undocumented immigrants from all public colleges and universities. If enacted, the bill would have expanded Georgia’s policy of barring these students from the state’s five most competitive schools, including the University of Georgia.
  • Goodman also interviews Keish Kim, an undocumented student who came to the United States when she was eight years old, regarding the impact of the law on her education and life. Kim discusses Freedom University, a volunteer-led university that provides college-level education to students regardless of status, where she is a student. She explains that she and other students have come forth at risk of deportation to counter the attacks on undocumented students, to put a face on the problem, and to demonstrate the impact of the current law.
  • Kim describes how the impact of discriminatory state laws is devastating for youths who came to the United States at a young age and grew up learning that this is their country. When they are told that they cannot go to college—even if they work hard and do their best in school—their dreams and goals are crushed. Kim tells how she applied to and was accepted at Georgia universities but could not attend because she would be required to pay out-of-state tuition, which her family could not afford.