In July of 2011, Connecticut became the 12th state to sign into law a new legislation permitting undocumented immigrant students to pay in-state tuition at public institutions of higher education. Prior to that, undocumented immigrant students had to pay out-of-state tuition fees that kept many from attending college.
“This law is an important step toward increasing access to higher education to students who yearn to attend college to attain personal academic achievements that enrich their lives,” said Dr. Irene Rios-Knauf, Dean of Academic Affairs. “Legislation granting undocumented students in-state tuition rates gives these students an incentive for completing high school, attending college, and contributing to the state’s society and economy.”
Ava-Marie Sealey, an NVCC business major, has experienced the challenges faced by many students as an undocumented immigrant. “I came into this country legally on a visa but it ran out,” said Sealey. After attending two semesters at Monroe College in New York, she was told if she didn’t show proper documentation she would have to leave school. “The next thing I knew, my American Dream was no more, and I was taken out of school. That was ten years ago. I came back to NVCC and I’m starting over and can’t use the credits I earned at Monroe College.”
“I’m getting a late start,” Sealey continues, “but at least I’m getting a start. There are many young people out there who are not aware of how the system works and they get their dreams crushed. My sister has graduated from college, but because of her immigration status she is not allowed to work.”
To meet the requirements of the new law, students have to attend a school in the state for a certain number of years, have graduated high school in the state, and sign an affidavit stating that they have either applied to legalize their status or will do so as soon as they are eligible.
Lay Kuan Toh, ESL Program Director, says the law hasn’t impacted NVCC enrollment because “[the college] already had a provision in place for non-documented students to be made eligible for in-state tuition if they had documentation to prove that Connecticut is their permanent home.”
At the time when Governor Dannel Malloy signed the bill into law, it was estimated that the reduction in annual tuition cost would amount to $17,000 annually at a four-year university. “These are children who live in Connecticut, contribute to our economy and are part of the fabric of our state. This bill isn’t controversial, it’s common sense,” Malloy said at the signing.
NVCC President Daisy De Filippis says, “The College enthusiastically supports this law which helps the children of undocumented immigrants earn the college degrees that will move them one step closer to achieving the American Dream which enticed their parents to risk their lives to come here in the first place.”