Rhode Island Sends In-State Tuition for Illegal Aliens to "Study" (Again)
By David Jaroslav | May 4, 2018
Rhode Island has granted in-state tuition to illegal aliens since 2011. However, it’s done so only by an administrative policy issued by the state’s Board of Governors for Higher Education (since renamed the Council on Postsecondary Education). Since this policy is not law, it could be easily reversed at the direction of a future governor. Even before the policy was adopted—at least as far back as 2005—the illegal-alien lobby has been pushing the Ocean State’s legislature to enshrine it into law, which would ensure the policy cannot be rescinded. They tried again this year, and again it’s likely they’ve failed.
As in many states, in-state tuition in Rhode Island is an immense public benefit to those who receive it. The 2018-2019 resident tuition rate at the University of Rhode Island (URI) is $14,138, while the out-of-state rate is $30,862, a difference of $16,724. At Rhode Island College (RIC), those rates are $8,929 and $21,692, respectively. And at the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI), resident students pay $189 per credit, compared to $561 per credit for non-residents.
This year’s bill, House Bill (H) 7137, the “Student Equal Economic Opportunity Act,” would enact the current administrative policy into law by granting in-state tuition to students who have:
- Attended high school in Rhode Island for three or more years; and
- Graduated from a Rhode Island High School or received a “high school equivalency diploma” from Rhode Island; and
- Registered or already be enrolled at a public institution of higher learning, retroactive as far back as the 2015-2016 school year; and
- Filed an affidavit stating they meet the above qualifications and that they’ve applied for legal status “or will file such an application as soon as they are eligible to do so” (which could easily be never);
- Make application information confidential (some of which may already be confidential under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, FERPA);
- Require that if any application information is disclosed, the applicant must notified;
- Authorize the Board of Education to adopt rules and regulations to implement it.
The bill was introduced back on January 12 and didn’t move at all for more than three months. On April 26, the House Committee on Finance held a hearing on H 7137. FAIR submitted testimony to the committee for the hearing, arguing both that it violates federal law and that it is patently unfair to U.S. citizens, legal immigrants and international students on valid student visas, none of whom can take advantage of the in-state rate. At the hearing, the Finance Committee voted for the bill to be “held for further study.”
A study order in Rhode Island doesn’t mean a bill is dead. While unlikely, it can still be taken up and considered by the committee again during the same session, and Rhode Island’s legislature isn’t scheduled to adjourn until June 30. However, bills held for study rarely get revived later. Generally, it is a face-saving way of letting a bill die without having to vote it down, something which has happened repeatedly over the years to the previous incarnations of this bill. If history repeats itself, it is dead for this legislative session, but will likely be reintroduced again next year.