At their meeting Thursday, the University’s Board of Regents will consider proposed revisions to the University’s in-state tuition guidelines that would make it possible for undocumented students from Michigan — who currently pay out-of-state tuition rates — to qualify for in-state tuition. If approved, these revisions would be a major victory for the student-led Coalition for Tuition Equality and affiliated student organizations, as they have sought an opportunity for undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition since October 2011. By approving these revisions, the regents can greatly aid undocumented students in the state and do their part in what has become a nationwide movement towards revamping immigration policy.

Under the revised policy, undocumented students would be eligible for in-state tuition if they attended at least two years of middle school and three years of high school in the state, graduated from a Michigan high school or earned a Michigan high school equivalency certificate and start classes at the University within 28 months of graduation. This avenue would be one of three through which students could claim eligibility for in-state tuition, the other two are Michigan residency and being either a member of the military or having a family member in the military.

For many undocumented students, their status as non-residents is a result of their parents bringing them to Michigan and the U.S. at a young age — a condition outside of their control. For the 29,000 undocumented students currently living in Michigan, a college education, let alone a University education — charging out-of-state tuition — on the average undocumented household’s income of $36,000 per year is virtually impossible to afford. However, being able to claim in-state residency and the corresponding in-state tuition rate would make attending the University far more feasible.

But even if the regents approve these revisions — and they should — the fundamental issues of an antiquated federal immigration policy behind many of the problems undocumented students face will remain in place. Currently, undocumented students can’t apply for federal financial aid. This is largely because they don’t meet the requirements for acquiring permanent residence visas or “green cards.” Moreover, under current law there is a backlog of over four million applications for these visas. A Senate immigration reform bill passed in late June goes a long way towards fixing this problem by providing an alternative pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But the bill wouldn’t permit students who have set out on this path to apply for financial aid, and House Republicans have stated they don’t intend to introduce a similarly sweeping package anytime soon.

With widespread support for tuition equality evidenced by CTE’s nearly two-year campaign as well as a Congress that has proven its capacity for inaction on important issues such as immigration reform time and time again, the regents should approve the proposed in-state tuition guidelines. Doing so would both reaffirm the University’s commitment to Michigan’s residents and serve as an important gesture of solidarity to undocumented people who — though not American citizens — desire a world-class education and a chance to make their mark on the U.S.

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