The Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education [official website] voted on Monday to grant in-state college tuition rates at Rhode Island state institutions to children whose parents immigrated to the US illegally. The decision is seen by some as a stepping stone [GoLocalProv report] in the broader context of the contentious immigration debate [JURIST news archive] with proponents arguing that in-state tuition is an act of social justice in order to give all children access their "fundamental right" to an education, and opponents such as the Rhode Island Tea Party [party website] arguing that tuition discounts encourage their parents' illegal actions and will significantly increase taxes. Children of illegal immigrants who attended school in Rhode Island for at least three years will pay the $9,824.00 tuition rate, as opposed to the out-of-state tuition rate of $25,912. The unanimous decision will take effect in 2012.
The Rhode Island decision is one of many immigration issues currently pending across the country. In June, the US Supreme Court [official website] denied certiorari [order list, PDF] in Martinez v. Regents of the University of California [docket], thereby rejecting a challenge to California's policy [JURIST report] of granting in-state tuition for state colleges and universities to illegal immigrants who graduated from California high schools. Last year, the California Supreme Court [official website] held [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the state's policy did not conflict with federal law because a student's high school graduation, not his or her residency, formed the basis for granting in-state tuition. Most students who take advantage of this rule are enrolled in community colleges [LAT report].