Classroom of students

Undocumented students who meet certain conditions will now be eligible to pay resident tuition to attend UH campuses.

The University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents approved a new policy at its February 2013 meeting that will allow undocumented immigrants, under certain circumstances, to be eligible for and pay resident tuition at all UH campuses.

Undocumented students are students who are not U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, or non-immigrant aliens; and do not possess legal documentation of their immigration status.

According to the policy, undocumented students who meet the following conditions shall be considered residents of Hawaiʻi for purposes of tuition, financial assistance, and university program participation to the full extent permitted under federal law and not specifically prohibited in Hawaiʻi Administrative Rules:

  • Establish domicile as per HAR 20-4; attended a public or private high school in the United States for at least three years, and graduated from a public or private high school, or attained the equivalent thereof in the United States.
  • Filed for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services; or has filed an application for legal immigration status, or has filed an affidavit with the university affirming the student’s intent to file such application as soon as the student is able.

Currently, 12 other states have policies in place that allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state resident tuition. In 2012, two states added it legislatively and two states did so via BOR policy change. Four states allow these students to receive state and private financial aid.

Read more about the policy as featured in Civil Beat.

This Post Has 33 Comments
  1. THIS IS WRONG. Do they do this for U.S. students in other countries such as China?

    Step aside and stand in line, Hawaiians and Hawaii residents: UN-DOCUMENTED aliens mostly from China and everywhere else now have priority for your classroom seat.

    Maybe the Board of Regents should be more regulated by the State.

    1. I agree, this is wrong. However, I am not surprised. Let me explain. I own and thus pay property taxes here, I vote here, I have a driver’s license here, and I have a little piece of paper from the county that states that I am a resident here. Yet under the leadership of this same board, UH ruled that I am not a resident for tuition purposes because my Husband happens to not be a resident here. I have done everything I could do as an individual to become a resident here and was denied instate residency tuition based solely on the fact that my Husband pays his state taxes elsewhere.

      How is it that UNDOCUMENTED people can be considered residents for tuition purposes but an AMERICAN CITIZEN has her tuition status based on where her spouse pays taxes? This latest vote to allow undocumented students instate tuition is just another example of how convoluted the UH system has become.

      1. It will come back to bite them but unfortunately it is more likely it will affect struggling local kids. Iʻm not sure what is behind this but let me give you an example of something kind of similar. Instead of trying to get reimbursement for my expensive textbooks I would rather donate them so I brought them to the library of one of the UH schools. I found out that the books do not even get to the shelf of a Hawaii school because the head librarian decided to send them to the Philippines.
        Somethingʻs going on behind the scenes that doesnʻt seem right. Your situation Ana, shows it is not consistent and definitely fishy. Will probably see a drop in scholarship availability for local kids too. Did you notice MOST of the scholarships are for non-resident and asian students?

        1. I didn’t even realize it before but you are right. Certain scholarships offered by UH are for Hawai’i residents only, to help local children gain access to a higher education. Granting undocumented students in-state residency would indeed allow them to apply for these scholarships. Would that mean more competition for a smaller and smaller pot of money? I would say yes, but I’m sure someone at UH decided that we have plenty of money to go around.

          How about my children? By the time they are ready for college, they will have lived here almost 10 years? Can they receive in-state tuition on their own status? The answer is no. Their status would be based simply on mine and my husband’s LEGAL residency. Why are we not holding this same requirement to undocumented children? Why should those who broke the law be given more access than those who abide by the law?

  2. Thank you so much to the Board of Regents for passing this wonderful policy. Many of undocumented students come to America when they are young and they grow up contributing to many American communities. Everyone deserves an education and this helps to give many young talented individuals a chance to fulfill their dreams.

    1. Hello Ryan, did you ever consider the effects this may have on the local kids that may want to “contribute to american communities” and that they “deserve an education” in their own homeland without un-documented aliens jumping line?
      Have you ever considered that maybe this is one of the socio-economic problems contributing to lives of crime?
      Letʻs not get all gushy about things before we consider the political ramifications and protocols behind certain acts and what prompted them; whether or not they are even legal.

    2. Ryan – It’s not that I don’t want young people to have a chance at a good education. I just want american tax dollars for education to go to american children FIRST. Our resources are not infinite!

      In my opinion, children who are brought here, illegally, and want to remain in our country and enjoy the benefits of in-state tuition must take the necessary steps to become an American Citizens FIRST. They are free to NOT become American citizens and pay out of state tuition just like all non-Hawaii residents.

      Simply put, why should we subsidize the education of people who may or may not give back to our community? Do we afford this type of subsidy to ALL AMERICANS? No, we do not. You must be a LEGAL resident of Hawai’i, paying income taxes to Hawai’i, with an established residency in Hawai’i. Apparently, being undocumented and doing things ILLEGALLY is something we want to SUBSIDIZE these days…

      1. Thanks E and A for commenting on my posts.

        I understand where you guys are coming from but when people think undocumented students are going to prevent residents from going to a university, this is not the case. Undocumented students will not take away any resources from tax payers because they do not have a social security. Guess what that means? They do not qualify for the FAFSA which means no federal grants that many citizens can get (i.e. Fell Pell Grant and Loans). Granting in state tuition makes it affordable for undocumented students in Hawaii who have lived here their entire lives. Why should they pay out of state tuition when they lived in Hawaii their entire lives and graduated from a public high school? Many of these undocumented students need to find the resources to pay for their education and without a social security number they do not get anything from the government.

        No one is trying to jump the line here. The proposal that the BOR passed includes that the undocumented student wanting in state tuition needs to file an affidavit saying that they are applying for citizenship which means they are in the process to become legal.

        1. And how long is this “applying for citizenship which means they are in the process to become legal.” which could technically go on forever. If the parents can afford to send them w/o FAFSA, then the parents can afford to pay taxes but usually the situation is they want to stay in U.S., reap benefits they donʻt have in their country, go back home and live like lords, while the U.S. suckers pay the taxes for infrastructure…such as schools.

          In other words thereʻs a preferential treatment.

          The system is too slack and has too many holes in it so things like you are referring to really arenʻt applied- oh, but NOT for kanaka who get slammed every step of the way. We are even using their land which greatly disturbs me.

          And Iʻm sorry but I disagree that this process will not clog classroom seating.

      2. A. Liza,
        Very good points. I think The UH Regents should maneuver towards a reconsideration and rescind this uncalled for and discriminatory ʻact of generosityʻ at the expense of children who are in dire straits right here in one of the most expensive places on earth.

        I believe the Regents got ahead of themselves and delved into something they really have no authority to do. I also believe this is motivated by Neil Abercrombie and his bending over backwards to pawn off Hawaiiʻs land and resources (that includes education of children as a resource) to satisfy agreements and foolish promises made to APEC members(which he had no legal authority to do since these lands are still awaiting disposition of the sovereignty status).

        UH Regents need to rescind this. And yes, it is discriminatory because it grants special privileges to one group over the other. The UH is still under the Hawaii State Legislature and I am sorry I wrote testimony on their behalf to retain all monies from tuitions instead of putting it into the state general fund. How soon this happened right after the Legislative session. Must have been in the works.

        They need to do the right thing and rescind.

  3. I agree with Elaine.

    Undocumented aliens should not have ANY privilages, to include IN-STATE TUITION!!! What happened to the requirement that in state tuition is reserved for our bonified Hawai’i residents, people who pay taxes here and who have taken the legal and necessary steps to LEGALLY be here?

    1. Agreed absolutely! When you think of the hoops that Hawaii residents have to jump through, this is an insult, at the very least. Try taking an online class and see the headache they make for you to PHYSICALLY bring a Distance Education Form to your campus.

  4. I have always thought that with citizenship comes certain rights. If thereʻs nothing of the sort then why bother even contributing to the system if it is to benefit someone that many more benefits than americans even do…yes thatʻs right. AND, Chinese students that come to America are given stipends to report back to the Chinese government on everything they observe such as cultural practices, land and resource situations, attitudes, etc. What is another name for that?

  5. Wow. This is nuts. Just letting anyone who isn’t in this country legally attend a college is wrong. They ARE criminals. No matter what they’re fleeing they are criminals. But to give them preferential treatment with am in-state residency rate is ridiculous. If you’re going to let them come to school they should be paying EXTRA not less.. Out of state x 2. Unreal. I’m so embarrassed to have anything to do with UH.

  6. I think this policy is somewhat fair–why should they be slapped with non-resident tuition for their parents lack of responsibility? The people who are going to move here without proper papers are generally not going to be the ones who can afford 40,000 for a college education; So making them pay resident tuition that can lend to them getting a proper education and bettering themselves and their families seems like a good idea. However, it does provide the incentive for people to not work hard on being documented in order to pay less for their education. Perhaps the first two years could be charged resident or resident + a little more, and the next two year the tuition would increase to out of state if they haven’t become documented (as well as Hawaii residents)– this would encourage people to become citizens as soon as possible. There should also be some sort of incentive for those who have gone through the hassle of becoming legal– they shouldn’t have to pay more for doing the right thing than those who are undocumented. This may call for a complete over-hall of the tuition system.

    1. Courtney – to some degree I feel for these kids. However, having immigrated here myself as a child and going through the legal process of becoming a citizen, I have learned the importance of having American citizenship. Which is why I really believe that in-state tuition should be for legal residents only.

      Instead of subsidizing their college education (which is what this is), why aren’t we making programs for these kids to get their citizenship during their senior year of High School? If they don’t want to become citizens, they can pay a higher fee.

      Following the law is something that we should encourage young people to do. Having them establish their residency in Hawai’i through legal means must happen first! We shouldn’t be finding them loopholes around the law and then subsidizing them because their parents couldn’t obey the law.

    2. Courtney, please read the other posts and the points they make. Next time, as well, if you or someone in your family, is signing up for classes and oops no seats in ANYTHING you need towards a degree. What then? You wait til term and itʻs WORSE? Is it still acceptable? There are many facets to consider, not just that it is a ʻnice gestureʻ.
      And again, we are talking about National citizen rights.

  7. this is wrong in so many ways. Do I need to remind you that these people are knowingly and willingly breaking the Law? and what does it say about the school that is rewarding such behavior? besides, you are being disrespectful to all out-of-state students who chose UH over schools on the mainland. If I were an out-of-state student I’d think twice before going to school where illegals are being treated better than non-residents but still US citizens.
    It might sound a little radical but these people should be reported to the immigration services not given benefits.

    A year ago my husband, a decorated war vet who’s been living here for 5 years, had to jump through hoops trying to prove his residency which revolved around taxes. So, since illegals are considered residents now, does it mean that taxes are no longer a #1 requirement for getting a resident tuition?

    It’s not about race or nationality, it is about what’s right. And this whole thing is nothing but a double standard.

    Here is one more question to the Board of Regents. What decent company will risk their reputation hiring an illegal college grad?

  8. We here a lot of complaining about welfare. What is this?
    Itʻs welfare for a non-U.S. citizen. Wow. The feds must have money to burn if thatʻs the case. Our money.

  9. This article raises personal ambivalence and questions the recent policies announced by the university. Undocumented students should not be punished for actions conducted by their parents or caregivers, who have not conducted procedures to apply for residency here in the United States. As a country that promotes values of equality, what gives our nation the right to not provide an equal opportunity for education for all children who seek opportunities here? We allow for these children and these families to serve in our military and contribute to some other jobs that are so critical in this economy, such as farming and nursing, so it is only fair to allow them to have an equal opportunity for education. It is morally unjustifiable to subject these children to cycles of poverty, when they and their families have come here in search for a better life. In a recent State of the Union address, it was stated that research has shown a 7 to 1 ratio in favor of return on investment, thereby reinforcing the principle of the importance of education. However, establishing residency is mandatory for out-of-state residents to receive in-state tuition rates, and establishing citizenship for these citizens should be of great priority as well.

    However, it is unsettling to know that providing these students with this right comes at an expense to local students’ tuition rates. The university ‘s recent policies on great tuition hikes for in-state students continue to discourage local students from attending the university to seek better opportunities in other parts of the nation. The university should have an obligation to assist these in-state students in need to encourage them to stay in Hawaii, revitalize our dismal economy, and fulfill jobs in areas where their assistance will be so desperately needed.

    1. Alyssa-Marie,
      Thank you for weighing both sides. But please see Anaʻs post: (February 27, 2013 at 1:01 am).

      With respect to the un-documented students, we are to assume that their parents already live here? Or will they be given this opportunity as some kind of ʻsister-cityʻ nonsense coming directly from a country of another origin?

      Even if they are already here, do you feel it is fair to upstage local parents that are struggling and have fulfilled all requirements to send their children to UH? There is enough overwhelming competition for this set of people, especially from the military families settling down here.

      If the undocumented children of undocumented parents residing here, have not felt it necessary to try to be citizens or in some cases, CANNOT be documented, whoʻs kuleana is that?

      I believe this is an unfair advantage and the weight of disadvantage falls to local kids and THEIR families.

      Please keep in mind, and this is very important: the UH lands are all former Kingdom, government, and Crown lands. The UH has a fiduciary duty/obligation resulting from the usage of those lands to the children of Hawaii.

      The UH should have consulted the public without applying their autonomous methods.

    1. Fully agreed! This is excellent news for many of the students of the future. Never mind the anti-immigrant noise on the rest of this board. Let those who want to take advantage of higher education take it.

  10. From the report The Case for Undocumented Students in Higher Education found here:

    “Undocumented students in higher education are not seeking handouts or entitlements. On the contrary, they just want the same opportunities as other students who have also earned them by studying hard and preparing themselves for college. Despite facing unique financial obstacles in pursuit of a college degree unlike their American citizen peers, they remain resilient. Helping them pursue their dreams of a higher education proves that the United States is still a country that values hard work and rewards that hard work with earned opportunities.”

    This policy is not about blocking anyone else’s access to higher education. The policy is simply helping undocumented students (who are undocumented for a variety of reasons) get access to in state tuition. UH used to provide similar assistance to students from certain Pacific Islands, which would be great to re-establish as well, but this policy is a good step in the right direction. Any efforts that go towards opening up higher education to be accessed by more people is a good thing. Please read the policy and educate yourself on the issues.

  11. I commend the Board of Regents for approving a fair policy for undocumented youth who attend our Hawaii schools and giving them an opportunity to access higher education via in-state tuition.

    I respect the comments posted by all, but please read this report to really understand the facts and not the myths that have been expressed.

  12. Well, thank you for dismissing our concerns as “myths”.
    I get the impression that discussion/debate is not welcome here and therefore it is no wonder that the board will do as ʻthey think bestʻ for all concerned; which, by the way, are tuition paying students, that have residency, that pay taxes, that are U.S. citizens.

    The recent comments appear to be a collection of BOR people or advocates for this unfair proposal. I will stand by my conviction that it is unfair and so far, none of you, including the little ʻarticleʻ you tout have provided an intelligent response to concerns.

    1. Hi E, I am a resident of Hawaii. I pay taxes here and have been paying tuition at UH for several years. I am not a “BOR” person, but am an advocate for this policy. Similar initiatives have been passed in several states, providing for access to education.

      I am not here to bicker or belittle anyone in the discussion. I do not understand how providing access to education to a small group of people is hurting anyone. These young people are already contributing to Hawaii and will continue to. They’re not being exempt from tuition. They simply get to pay the in-state rate.

  13. Jessica,
    The simple explanation is not helpful.
    If I do not have documentation as a citizen/resident of this ʻstateʻ, I cannot receive in-state tuition. Period.
    Even though, my whole family has served in the U.S. military throughout their lives. That being said, I would NOT even advocate for military families to be exempt. Aboriginal Hawaiians-ABSOLUTELY YES. In fact, they should be exempt from ANY payment.
    The rule is discretionary.
    BTW, who said it is a small group of people anyway?

  14. Hey All,
    I know that this comment section has been filled up with lots of high brow, often ill-informed moral blather and I would like to change the tone a bit. Heres my story.My husband was brought to America when he was a young child. He went to middle school and graduated high school. Hes never been in trouble with the law and has made a living working the trade that his family always has. His family has always been too poor to pay the exorbitant lawyer fees to become a citizen (including actual travel back to his home country to finish the process) until recently when they passed the ammended dreamer act. He has always wanted to go college because he is a talented artist and muscian. We have lived in Hawaii for 4 years, but because his parents decided to bring him to the US he couldnt afford quality education. He couldnt afford it in the state we lived in before either because they also require out of state tuition for undocumented students. So, heres a man who has been denied equal access to affordable tuition for reasons completely beyond his control. We are very grateful for this opportunity to send him to school now that its actually possible for us to pay for it on our meager paychecks. We are the people this bill affects.I am a graduate of UH myself and I paid out of state tuiton because i did not live in Hawaii for a year before I applied to school. Why is it fair for him to pay out of state when, besides his undocumented status, he has done everything neccesary to be considered a resident? They are not just letting people come swooping in from the blue to get this special tuiton rate. They still have requirements that you prove that you otherwise are considered a resident for tuitons purposes! He is looking into the application process right now and I am helping him do so. He came upon this blog and was shocked to see the xenophobic anger that he perceives as directed towards him. HE HASNT BROKEN THE LAW. But now hes an adult and he has to pay for their actions. Its hard to make a good living to pay for a lawyer if you cant afford to go to school which will give you a better chance at getting a good job. If you have read this far, I hope you can forget about the lofty ideals being tossed around and focus on the effect this makes on our lives. I can’t wait to see him finally be able to succeed!!


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