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Immigration Policy May Create Barriers for Immigrant College Students

studyGoing to college is a costly pursuit. In addition to the inherent financial and intellectual challenges presented by the ambition, unfortunately students like Melvis Madrigal, a 20 year old who graduated from Robertson High School in 2013 with a 4.0 grade point average, find themselves facing an uphill battle just to continue their education past high school.

For a student like Madrigal, the current higher education system is not accessible, since someone’s citizenship status (or lack thereof) will ultimately determine the ease with which a respectable degree can be pursued. Madrigal is neither a legal resident nor a US citizen, despite living in Asheville for 14 years. He cannot obtain in-state tuition and he is not eligible to receive any form of financial aid from the government. “It has definitely created a huge hardship. And I know that it is not just me,” he said.

College tuition for out-of-state students is very high; in fact, it’s 3-4 times higher than in-state tuition. For many families, this alone makes college unaffordable.

Natalie Teague, an immigration attorney in Asheville, has found that there is an increasing number of students who have grown up in the state and been a part of the school system since kindergarten, yet lack the proper paperwork to pursue their educational goals due to restraints in existing legislation.  Many of them have demonstrated exceptional scholastic achievements, yet do not have the financial means to realize their ambitions.

Despite the efforts of various advocacy groups that have petitioned the state for changes in legislation, progress has stalled.  In 2013, a bill was proposed that would allow immigrant students to qualify for in-state tuition if they filled out an application to legalize their citizenship status.  It didn’t pass.

State Representative Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, is opposed to changing immigration policies. He claims that many lawmakers will reject the bill because they don’t want to support benefits for undocumented students, while others feel that immigration is a federal issue and that interfering would set a bad legal precedent.  This same type of debate is taking place all over the country.

According to Alexandra Sirota, the Director of the Budget & Tax Center, there are currently only 20 states that offer in-state tuition to immigrant students.

If you or someone you know needs legal counsel regarding immigration and education or another type of immigration issue, please contact the immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas by visiting our website or calling us today at 512-215-5225.