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Burns Reports on Tuition and Aid for Undocumented Students


by Jewel Caruso

Rachel Burns (PhD 2018) published a report with the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association titled, State tuition and fees for undocumented students. Burns is currently a senior policy analyst at SHEEO.

The report “highlights and explores state policies for undocumented students during the 2022 fiscal year” at public two- and four-year institutions. With the data collected from SHEEO’s 2022 Tuition, Fees, and Financial Assistance survey, Burns focused on the policies regarding tuition residency determinations, tuition waivers, and financial aid eligibility.

Burns cites research that links a student’s ability to afford education to postsecondary success. She concludes, "States policies that prevent undocumented students from paying in-state tuition rates or receiving state grant aid may prevent these students from enrolling in, persisting at, and completing public postsecondary education, and likely exacerbate existing disparities in undocumented students’ postsecondary access and success."

Under federal policy, most students born outside the US are ineligible for federal financial aid; but Burns found that state policies on access to state-level assistance vary widely across the country, and policies within state can vary across institution type and the type of degree sought.

Nearly 40% of states offer at least some state aid programs or tuition waivers to undocumented students. The number of states offering in-state tuition to undocumented students has increased steadily since the survey began tracking state aid in 2006, but the number of states that prohibit enrollment has grown as well.

The complex array of approaches at the state level underscores the importance of work, like Burns’ research, in clarifying options available to undocumented students.

To read the full SHEEO report, visit here

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PhD, 2018

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