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Hawaii Policy

Updated As Of: April 26, 2017

Currently, there is not a state policy that gives undocumented students access to in-state tuition. However, under Hawaii Statute 304A-402, the university board of regents has the power to waive or reduce tuition fees for both resident and nonresident students. The University of Hawaii system has ruled that undocumented students qualify for in-state tuition.


University of Hawaii System | Eligibility Requirements:

  • Demonstrated intent to establish residence in Hawaii;
  • Physically present in Hawaii for 12 consecutive months prior to the first day of instruction, and subsequent to the demonstration of intent to make Hawaii his/her legal residency; and 
  • Meet certain requirements pertaining to parent tax filing status. 
  • HB 873 was introduced but failed to pass in 2003. It would have given in-state tuition to undocumented students. 
  • HB 2053 was introduced but stalled in Congress in 2012.  It would have exempted undocumented students from paying nonresident tuition at public institutions.
  • HB 1674 was introduced but stalled in Congress in 2012.  It would have extended eligibility for state federal aid and in-state tuition to undocumented students.
  • SB 2163 was introduced but stalled in the Senate in 2012.  It would have extended eligibility for state federal aid and in-state tuition to undocumented students.
  • HCR 145: Passed in 2006, requesting that the federal and state departments of health provide medical services to undocumented immigrants in medical emergencies and urging the President and Congress to create a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants.
  • HB 134: Effective July 1, 2010, requiring proof of legal residency to obtain a driver’s license in the state of Hawaii.
  • On July 9, 2013, HB 1059 became law without the Governor’s signature, requiring courts to tell all defendants that if they are non-U.S. citizens, lawful or unlawful, the results of their case could lead to immediate detention, deportation, or exclusion from admission or denial of naturalization. 
  • HB 1007 was passed in 2015, but became effective in January 2016. It allows qualified undocumented immigrants (with proof of identity and Hawaii residency) to receive drivers’ licenses. 

  • HCR125, passed in April 2017, Hawaii is now a hookipa (welcoming) state and would request the governor to appoint a hookipa commission. Local law enforcement are requested to decline to work with Federal Immigration Authorities.


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.