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Pennsylvania Policy

Updated As Of: April 6, 2017

Pennsylvania has not passed legislation to provide in-state tuition to undocumented students.


  • State Rep. Tony Payton Jr. introduced HB 1695 in 2011 which it would have provided in-state tuition to undocumented students. The bill was been referred to Committee of Education June 10, 2011.
  • SB 713 would provide undocumented immigrants with in-state tuition.  The bill was referred to and remains in the Education Committee since March 20, 2013.
  • SB760 would provide access to in-state tuition for students who meet certain criteria, regardless of their immigration status. The bill was referred to Education since April 23, 2015.
  • SB 697 was introduced by State Rep. Daylin Leach in 2015. The bill would have provided undocumented students with in-state tuition and have allowed them to receive driver’s licenses. The bill was referred to State Government since June 25, 2007.

  • SB 1886 was introduced by State Rep. Peter G. Schweyer in 2015. The bill would have provided undocumented students with in state tuition and financial aid if they meet requirements.

  • HB 1042, also known as the "Pennsylvania Higher Education Tuition Fairness Act" was introduced in 2017. If passed, it would grant undocumented students eligibility for in state tuition if they meet certain requirements.

Other Relevant Policies

  • The city of Hazleton, PA, created the Illegal Immigration Relief Act Ordinance in 2006. The ordinance sought to prohibit landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants and impose fines on businesses that hire them.  The city was almost immediately sued in Lozano v. City of Hazleton and the ordinance was ruled unconstitutional multiple times, most recently in 2013.
  • SB 979, introduced in 2007, would have allowed police to verify the immigration status of any person stopped for a crime who officers suspected of being in the country illegally. The bill was referred to Labor and Industry since June 9, 2010.
  • Introduced in 2009, HB 1502 and HB 1503 would have required state contractors and construction employers to verify work authorization of their employees through the federal E-Verify system, but both failed to pass.
  • On November 10, 2009 Philadelphia's Mayor Nutter signed an executive order making immigration status confidential and prohibiting city employees from asking about immigration status, unless necessary to determine program eligibility or specifically required by law.
  • Multiple anti-immigration bills were introduced but failed to pass in 2011, including:
    • HB 474 and HB 857 sought to deny birthright citizenship to children born of undocumented immigrants.

    • HB 1789 would have required verification of legal status of foster children.

    • HB 798 would have required mandatory immigration status checks during any arrest.

    • HB 1024 would have imposed a $5,000 fine for hiring undocumented immigrants.

  • Effective January 1, 2013, SB 627 (Act 127) requires all public works contractors and subcontractors to use E-Verify to confirm employment eligibility of each new employee.
  • On April 16, 2014, Philadelphia’s Mayor Nutter signed an executive order that substantially limited Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests. Later on, this order was revised. In January 2016, the Mayor Jim Kenney signed an executive order to revert back to Nutter's original policy of limited detainer requests. 
  • HB 1520 would expand access to driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.  The bill was introduced in June 2013 but was referred to the House Transportation Committee. 
  • SB 273, referred to Education in 2017, would require institutions of higher education to anually certify whether or not the institution has an immigration policy that would disqualify them from receiving State funds. Policies that restrict enforcement of federal immigration policy fall under disqualifying policy.
  • HB 14, introduced in 2017, would prohibit an institution of higher education from receiving state funding if it adopts sanctuary policies or refuses enforcement of federal immigration law.
  • HB 660, introduced in 2017, would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for an undocumented resident driver's license or learner's permit if they have resided in Pennsylvania for 90 days.
  • HB 856 would prohibit employers from knowingly employing an undocumented immigrant in Pennsylvania.

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.