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Indiana senators hear reasons to allow in-state tuition for undocumented students

Becca Rice, vice president for governmental relations and industry engagement at Ball State University in Muncie, testified Feb. 1, 2023, before the Indiana Senate's Education and Career Development Committee at the Statehouse in Indianapolis. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Attending college can be expensive, but group of students is getting hit the hardest.

Some Indiana lawmakers say undocumented students pay three times more out of pocket than people who get in-state tuition.

Georgia and Indiana are the only two states that prohibit in-state tuition for undocumented students. In November, Arizona passed a proposition to allows undocumented students access to in-state tuition rates and state-funded financial aid.

Marlene Dotson, president and chief executive officer of the Indiana Latino Institute, said about Hoosier students, “This is their home. They don’t know other homes. This is their home so they deserve to have the same opportunities.”

A Senate bill and a House of Representatives bill, if passed and signed by the governor, would allow undocumented immigrant students to pay in-state tuition at Indiana colleges or universities. Students would be required to have an Indiana high school diploma and show that they are on the path to legal status.

Dotson says she’s pushing to get in-state tuition for undocumented students. “It’s hard and to make that a three times to pay for school to attend college, it’s just basically telling them this is not an option for you. Indiana can do better.”

She said, “The Indiana Latino Institute advocates for education for our Latino community to access to higher education, get access to good jobs. We ask legislators to make college more accessible for undocumented immigrants.”

State senators on the Education and Career Development Committee on Wednesday heard testimony about the Senate bill.

Becca Rice, vice president for governmental relations and industry engagement at Ball State University in Muncie, testified, “For all of our students who decide to attend Ball State University, we certainly make Indiana opportunities available for them to learn about, to live in Indiana, and to work in Indiana, and so this population of students would be no different.”

Enrique Mares-Villicana, education policy fellow at the Indiana Latino Institute, says he’s sending a message to undocumented students. “With in-state tuition, you can do these things. You are able to follow your ambitions and succeed, but, with the legislation prohibiting in-state tuition, they’re sending a message out that we don’t want you to succeed.”


“IUYA urges the Education and Career Development committee to vote yes on Senate Bill 135. Studies have shown that in-state tuition policies significantly impact high school graduation rates among undocumented students. In a study conducted by Bozick & Miller (2014), researchers found that undocumented students are more likely to graduate from high school in states that allow for in-state tuition rates to be granted. On the contrary, states that do not have in-state tuition policies in place experience lower high school graduation rates (Bozick & Miller, 2014). This significant financial barrier to higher education discourages students not only from pursuing higher education but also from working towards their diplomas as not everyone is able to afford paying twice as much to pursue more education. The U.S. is home to more than 427,000 undocumented students enrolled in higher education. In their pursuit of higher education, undocumented students actively ready themselves to fill critical skill shortages and become better positioned to support their families, and communities. With all this being said, it is well known that immigrants are the backbone of this nation. We deserve equal access to education, and with that our people also deserve access to healthcare and permanent protection from detention or deportation. There will be politicians and others in this state willing to compromise our rights and family’s right to thrive simply because it is not convenient for their agendas. Passing SB 135 is a step to undo the harm that has been done in 2011 and proceed in building a better future for all Indiana residents.”

Indiana Undocumented Youth Alliance