By Joseph Montaño, ACLU of Virginia Immigrants' Rights Coordinator
This time of the year can be a tumultuous roller-coaster ride of emotions for Virginia’s high school seniors. Many are waiting with equal parts anxiety and excitement for word from colleges about admissions decisions; others are planning their first day of work after graduation. But, for one group of Virginia seniors, this time of the year can bring a different set of feelings – isolation and despair. While their friends and classmates visit prospective colleges and consider a variety of careers, undocumented students who wish to attend college face a major hurdle – the lack of affordable tuition rates.
The prospect of working hard, attending college, and choosing your career is part of the American dream. It is also why we support legislation to allow DACA approved students who are Virginia residents in all meaningful respects to be eligible for in-state tuition rates.
In addition to helping fulfill the American promise of fairness, equality, and opportunity, this legislation would strengthen Virginia’s economic foundation. As the American Association of State Colleges and Universities found, “a large proportion of undocumented college-age individuals are likely to stay in the United States even if they don't have access to higher education.” This coupled with the numerous studies that show people with post-secondary education earn higher wages and contribute more to the economy as taxpayers make support for this legislation the fiscally responsible thing to do. By failing to provide access to post-secondary education, we risk adding to the uneducated workforce and harming Virginia’s economic future.
Legislation to allow undocumented high school students to apply for in-state status is a win-win! For the students, the legislation can make the dream of college a reality. For our economy and businesses, it can increase our tax base and provide more well-trained workers. It’s fundamentally fair and economically just. It’s time to bring tuition equity to Virginia.
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