U.S. Sen. Patty Murray has introduced a bill that would give financial help to Washington and four other states that extend in-state tuition and financial aid to students born outside the U.S.
Last year, Washington lawmakers approved a measure that offered college financial aid for students who were illegally brought to the United States as children. Now, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray has introduced new federal legislation that would provide an incentive for more states to do so.
The bill would establish the American Dream Grant program with $750 million in funding. That money would go to states that offer in-state tuition and state financial aid to so-called “Dreamers” — students born outside the U.S. who have spent most of their lives here, and want to attend college in the U.S.
The bill, co-sponsored by three other Democratic senators, may be a long shot in the Republican-controlled Congress. Still, some red states offer in-state tuition to undocumented students, and Texas is one of five states that offers Dreamers financial aid, as well. Last year, the bill to offer state financial aid to Dreamers in Washington passed with broad Republican support.
Washington doesn’t have an exact count of how many undocumented students are currently enrolled in public colleges and universities, and thus getting an in-state tuition break. But for the 2013-14 school year, more than 1,000 new students who were presumed to be undocumented submitted affidavits requesting in-state tuition. That was a 36 percent increase from the previous year — the largest increase since the program began in 2003. Ninety percent of the students requesting in-state tuition enrolled in community college.
There’s also not an exact count of the number of undocumented students getting financial aid through Washington’s State Need Grant program, said Rachelle Sharpe, director of student financial aid for the Washington Student Achievement Council. In 2014-15, nearly 2,500 students applied. The Student Achievement Council believes about 900 of those students were funded, but better data will be available in May.
Fifteen states offer in-state tuition to undocumented students — but no financial aid — and five states offer both. In addition to Washington, those states are California, Minnesota, New Mexico and Texas.