Following many hours of heated public debate Monday night, the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education voted unanimously to allow undocumented students in Rhode Island to pay in-state tuition to attend public colleges and universities. The change will go into effect for the 2012 fall semester.
The meeting, which was well-attended by advocates on both sides of the issue, took place at the Vin Cullen Field House on the Community College of Rhode Island’s Warwick campus. Supporters of expanding in-state tuition for undocumented students argued that students should not bear the responsibility for circumstances out of their control and that non-citizens deserve a chance to get a college degree at an affordable price. Critics of the proposal contended that a legislative vote — rather than an unelected body — should decide the issue. Rhode Island is now the only state to have enacted the change through an executive branch decision rather than through legislation. It joins 12 other states that currently offer undocumented students in-state tuition.
A committee of the board of governors recommended passing the measure last week, and Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 issued a statement in support of the proposal Sunday. In his statement, the governor said he is “proud that, for young people across our state, the Board of Governors will soon be removing a needless roadblock to a brighter future.”
To qualify, individuals must have attended a Rhode Island high school for a minimum of three years and have graduated from the school or received the equivalent of a diploma. Students must also sign an affidavit stating they have filed, or will file as soon as they are eligible, for citizenship. The policy will apply to students attending the Community College of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island.