Undocumented Student Tuition
Immigrants who are in the United States illegally are not eligible for in-state tuition in New Hampshire.
NH in-state tuition laws
In 2012 New Hampshire passed a law that requires any in-state applicant to a public university in New Hampshire to sign an affidavit swearing he or she is a legal resident of the United States.
In 2014 and again in 2015 the New Hampshire Legislature considered, but ultimately killed, bills that would let some immigrants living here without permission pay in-state tuition. Both bills would have applied to immigrants who attended high school in New Hampshire and were also seeking legal status from the federal government.
In 2018, the Legislature sent SB 525 to interim study. This bill would have prohibited the University System of New Hampshire and the Community College System of New Hampshire from giving state-funded financial aid to students who did not prove their legal citizenship status.
Federal law on in-state tuition
A 1996 federal law states that “an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State (or a political subdivision) for any postsecondary education benefit.”
Many conservatives argue that this law bans in-state tuition for immigrants who are here illegally. Nonetheless, a little less than half of all states offer in-state tuition for some such immigrants. So far federal courts have upheld the state laws.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), started under President Barack Obama, could also impact immigrants’ eligibility for in-state tuition. DACA allowed immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children to apply for legal status. President Donald Trump ended the Obama administration policy and instructed Congress to pass an alternative to the Obama policy. So far Congress has not passed a DACA replacement.
“Some undocumented immigrants should qualify for in-state tuition.”
- There are young adults who have lived almost their entire lives in the United States, after being brought to the country illegally by their parents. Those young adults did nothing wrong and view themselves as U.S. residents. It is just and fair to offer these young adults in-state tuition if they completed high school in New Hampshire.
- According to the latest estimates from the Pew Research Center, there were only about 10,000 immigrants without legal status in New Hampshire in 2014—less than 1% of the state’s population. Only about 1% of all K-12 students had parents who are in the United States illegally. This suggests that granting some such immigrants in-state tuition would have a minimal impact on taxpayers as a whole.
- So far federal courts have upheld in-state tuition for immigrants without legal status, so long as in-state tuition requirements are based on where a student attends high school.
- New Hampshire has an aging population and a shrinking workforce. The state needs to do everything it can to encourage young adults to stay in New Hampshire and join the workforce.
“Immigrants who are here illegally should not qualify for in-state tuition.”
- There is a legal path to immigrate to the U.S. and become a New Hampshire resident. It is therefore unjust and unfair to grant in-state tuition to immigrants who have not followed the law.
- New Hampshire has the highest average in-state tuition for public colleges and universities in the U.S. and the lowest state funding for higher education. Any extra expense—such as giving a tuition break to immigrants who do not have legal status here—contributes to the high tuition burden on New Hampshire students.
- Despite court rulings to the contrary, federal law states that no state may grant in-state tuition to an immigrant who is here illegally. New Hampshire risks an expensive lawsuit if it grants in-state tuition contrary to federal law.
- If the university system wants to offer in-state benefits to immigrants without legal status, it may do so through privately funded scholarships. Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize such students.