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Alabama Policy

Updated As Of: January 12, 2018

The state of Alabama bars undocumented students from receiving any public postsecondary education benefits, including in-state tuition and financial aid. Alabama is also one of the two states that explicitly prohibit undocumented students from enrolling at any public postsecondary institution. DACA recipients are eligible to enroll in certain public institutions at in-state rates.

According to Section 8 of House Bill 56An alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be permitted to enroll in or attend any public postsecondary education institution in this state [...] Except as otherwise provided by law, an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible for any postsecondary education benefit, including, but not limited to, scholarships, grants, or financial aid.

DACA recipients are able to attend certain postsecondary institutions: 

  • University of Alabama in Hunstville, Birmingham, and Tuscaloosa
  • University of Troy in Dothan and Troy
  • Univerity of Montevallo
  • Auburn University at Montgomery and Auburn
  • Community colleges
  • In 2008, the Alabama State Board of Education passed a policy that prohibits community colleges from admitting undocumented students
  • Modeled off of Arizona’s HB 1070, the Alabama state legislature passed the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act (HB 56) in 2011. It is widely considered the most extensive law in the nation for restricting the lives of undocumented immigrants. Among the many restrictions:
    • Section 8 of the law prohibits any undocumented immigrant from enrolling in a public institution of higher education.
    • Section 28 of the law requires schools to collect information on students’ immigration status and has led to a marked decrease in school attendance among undocumented students.
  • After being signed by Governor Robert Bentley, HB 56 was challenged by the US government and a group of private plaintiffs. On August 20, 2012, the 11th District Court restricted or overturned many of the sections enacted, but the restrictions on higher education still stand.
  • In 2008 and 2010, a total of 43 anti-immigrant bills were introduced in the Alabama legislature.
  • The Alabama state legislature passed HB 658 in 2012. It allows law enforcement to verify the immigration status of an individual based on a "reasonable suspicion.”
  • In addition to restricting postsecondary education access for undocumented students, HB 56 affected the general undocumented immigrant population. Listed here are the sections of the law that have been restricted, overturned, and remain in effect. 
  • As of March 2013, DACA recipients are eligible for Alabama state driver’s licenses and identification cards.
  • HB100, introduced in February 2017, would require institutions of higher education to comply with federal immigration law.

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.