State To Widen Tuition Breaks To Include Immigrants

Ann McClure's picture

Governor Deval Patrick will direct state colleges and universities Monday to allow young illegal immigrants to pay the lower resident rate for tuition and fees as soon as they obtain work permits through a new federal program, a senior administration official said Sunday.

Patrick’s declaration ends five months of anxiety for immigrants who cheered President Obama’s decision in June to temporarily halt the deportations of immigrants age 30 and under, only to plunge them into limbo in Massachusetts as officials said they were reviewing whether the immigrants were eligible for the lower rates. But the governor’s announcement also raised criticism that he is neglecting American citizens struggling to afford college.

The Patrick administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the governor is sending a letter to the Board of Higher Education Monday, said the change takes effect immediately. State officials said students paying nonresident tuition now at one of the 29 state colleges or universities may apply for a refund for this semester, but not for prior semesters.

“That’s amazing,” said an elated Cairo Mendes of Marlborough, a 19-year-old native of Brazil here since he was 9 who could afford only two classes at Massachusetts Bay Community College this semester because the cost is double the resident rate. “My life is about to get a lot better, just the fact that I can go to college in peace.”

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