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Rhode Island Policy

Updated As Of: April 11, 2017

The Rhode Island legislature has not passed a law extending in-state tuition eligibility to undocumented students, but in 2011 the Board of Governors for Higher Education voted unanimously in favor of in-state tuition access for undocumented students meeting the following requirements:
  • Students must have attended a Rhode Island high school for at least three years
  • Students must have graduated from a Rhode Island high school or received their GED
  • Students must sign an affidavit to apply for legal status when student become eligible. 
  • In January 2017, HB 5237 was introduced, and if passed, undocumented students who meet requirements will be eligible for in state tuition.
  • In January and February 2015, respectively, HB 5228 and SB 0305, were introduced in the House and Senate but died in committees. If passed, the bills would have granted in state tuition access to any students fulfilling the aforementioned requirements and enrolling in an accredited institution of higher education within the state.
  • In February 2014, HB 7437 and SB 2345 were introduced in the House and Senate and both died in committees. If passed, the bills would have made undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition. 
  • HB 7340, introduced in 2012, would have reinforced the Board of Governors for Higher Education’s policy to provide in-state tuition to qualified undocumented students but failed to pass.
  • In 2011, the Board of Governors for Higher Education voted unanimously to change the residency requirements to provide qualified undocumented students with in-state tuition at public higher education institutions.
  • In February 2011, Representative Grace Diaz introduced HB 5245, also known as the Student Equal Economic Opportunity Act, which would have provided qualified undocumented students with in-state tuition but failed to pass.
  • House Bill 6184, introduced in 2005, would have extended in-state tuition eligibility to undocumented students but failed to pass. A similar bill, HB 5308 was introduced in 2007.
  • HB 7262, introduced in January 2014, would have provided qualified undocumented immigrants’ with driver’s permits. The bill died in committee. 
  • HB 7927 and HB 7315, introduced in 2012, would have reinstated the E-Verify requirement but failed to pass.
  • HB 8142, introduced in 2010, was similar to Arizona SB 1070 and died in committee.
  • In 2008, by Executive Order, Governor Garcieri required all state employers to verify employees legal status with E-Verify.  The order was overturned when Governor Chafee was elected.
  • ACLU Rhode Island: Affiliated with the national organization, ACLU Rhode Island works to protect the rights of all people through education and litigation.
  • Progreso Latino: A community-based nonprofit that works with Latinos and immigrant communities in obtaining greater self-sufficiency and socio-economic progress.
  • Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island: An educational and workforce development organization working to empower and support the underserved to become self-sufficient, fully participating community members.
  • Latino Policy Institute: The Latino Policy Institute of Roger Williams University researches Rhode Island Latinos’ social, economic, and civic contributions.
  • Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition: A student-based organization supporting justice and equality for all people.

Federal law has been unsuccessful at addressing comprehensive access to postsecondary education for undocumented students. Despite efforts to pass the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform, Congress has not addressed the current ambiguous language in IIRIRA regarding undocumented students' eligibility for educational benefits (i.e. in-state tuition and state-funded financial aid programs). Therefore, much of the policy activity regarding postsecondary access for undocumented students has shifted to state and system levels. As a result, state policymakers and higher education institutions take varied approaches to either broadening or restricting access to postsecondary education and educational benefits. Others states have yet to take formal action on this issue, leaving the decision to individual campus leaders.

Under the provisions of this ambiguous policy context, undocumented youth encounter contentious environments with policies that range from inclusive, restrictive, or unstipulated stances.

Inclusive: States with policies that explicitly grant in-state tuition and/or eligibility for public financial aid for undocumented students.

Restrictive: States with policies that explicitly deny eligibility for admission and/or in-state tuition for undocumented students.

Unstipulated: States that do not have stated policies that explicitly address undocumented student access to postsecondary education.

State and system policies are volatile and continuously changing. For the latest, please visit the uLEAD NewsdeskFor information specific to individual state context, click in the subheadings below.

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