Young and I are college students. He is pursuing a graduate degree and I am finishing up my undergraduate work. We both agree that our education has, and will continue to, positively impact our lives in a big way, from the ways in which we view the world to our future earning power. My younger sister is in college now too, and I am excited for the opportunities her education will help create for her. Young has a younger sibling too, a brother, who has graduated from high school two years ago. He is not in college, even though he knows receiving an education is important.

yay college!

It turns out that the path to higher education can be particularly challenging to navigate as a DACA recipient.

Young is kind of a special case. He graduated high school with a very high GPA and outstanding standardized test scores that helped him earn significant scholarships that made it possible for him to attend college. He worked very hard to find a way to attend school, and he was fortunate in that schoolwork came more naturally to him. Young’s brother is a good student, but he doesn’t have the incredible test scores to help him get the big scholarships that Young did. This has made financing college a challenge.

First, DACA recipients are not able to file the FAFSA and receive federal aid. This means no Pell Grants and no subsidized loans. Most, but not all, states also prohibit DACA recipients from receiving state aid. For example, in the state Young and his brother lived in there was a state program that would permit high school graduates to attend two years of community college for free if they met certain academic and community service requirements. Both Young and his brother met the requirements of this program, except they didn’t get this benefit. The other primary requirement was to be a U.S. citizen.

sorry not for you

A second challenge was that not all states allow DACA recipients to pay in-state tuition. If a state doesn’t allow DACA students to pay the in-state rate, the students then must pay the out of state or international student tuition rate, which is usually double the cost of in-state tuition.

Well, why doesn’t his brother just move to one of the states that does offer in-state tuition, work for a year to two, become a resident of that state, and then apply for school? This is an option is brother is researching, but it isn’t so simple. Most of the states that have in-state tuition for DACA recipients require that the student graduated from high school in that state. Young’s brother already graduated from high school in a state that does not have a policy that assures in-state tuition to DACA recipients.

What I ask is, “What reason is there not to offer in-state tuition to DACA recipients?”

An education can change a persons’ life, and I would assert that we as a society collectively benefit from being able to educate as many of our members as we can.

One might argue that undocumented immigrants do not pay taxes and thus should not receive this benefit of in-state tuition. However, the idea that DACA recipients don’t pay taxes simply isn’t true. Young and his brother pay state and federal incomes taxes, sales taxes, and they would pay property taxes if they owned property.

It is also important to remember that Young and his brother, like other DACA recipients, did not choose to come to the U.S. They were brought to the U.S. as children by their parents. The U.S. is their home now, and they should not be limited and or penalized for a decision they did not make. Why not make it more possible for motivated students, like Young’s brother, to contribute to our society in more ways? Offering in state tuition would make a large impact in the life of Young’s brothers, and the thousands of other students in similar positions.

For now, Young’s brother is working at a restaurant, trying to save up money and figure out how he can attend college.

Being able to pay in-state tuition would help.