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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Legislature rejects plan to give Wisconsin DACA recipients in-state tuition at UW schools

To the dismay of Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, a bill that would grant undocumented Wisconsin residents the opportunity to receive in-state tuition at UW System institutions once again failed to pass, according to a recent press release.

The 2017-’18 cost of out-of-state tuition at UW-Madison was $34,783, compared to $10,533 for in-state students. There are currently exceptions within the UW System tuition plan — like the reciprocity granted to students who are residents of Minnesota, who pay $14,060 annually.

Zamarripa’s bill intended to create a new exemption within the tuition plan in order to provide undocumented residents of Wisconsin tuition equity. The legislation proposes three requirements for students to uphold in order to gain the tuition reciprocity.

The student must have graduated from a Wisconsin high school or recieved a high school graduation equivalency from Wisconsin, maintain resident status in Wisconsin for at least three years after their first day attending high school and prove that they are actively applying for permanent residency with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service upon entrance to a UW System institution.

In the 1982 case of Plyler v. Doe, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a state must grant public K-12 education to all school-aged undocumented children. However, this bill never covered higher education, forcing all undocumented students who wish to go to a college or university to pay the cost of out-of-state tuition at these institutions.

This raised tuition price makes attending higher education extremely difficult for a majority of undocumented students, according to a co-sponsorship memo from Zamarripa.

Undocumented students had previously been awarded in-state tuition under former Gov. Jim Doyle; however, this program was stripped within Gov. Scott Walker’s first budget bill in 2011.

After this, in response to the failed passing of the Dream Act in 2010, President Barack Obama issued an order for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA. Unauthorized immigrants under the age of 30 who came to the U.S. before the age of 16 cannot be deported if they are registered under DACA.

There are 7,600 DACA students living in Wisconsin who are eligible to apply for this two-year renewable legal status, but still do not get in-state tuition, according to Zamarripa.

The bill was first circulated in 2015 and has been proposed multiple times, but has never been brought to the floor. Sixteen other states have already adopted similar legislation to Zamarripa’s proposal, including Minnesota and several other states that are home to universities that UW-Madison considers to be peer institutions.

“They are undocumented young people. Brought here, as children, through no fault of their own,” said Zamparripa in a speech to the Assembly when the bill was first proposed in 2014. “They have grown up here, they have graduated from our Wisconsin high schools. They want a fair shot. Not a free ride. Just a fair shot. An opportunity to pay in-state tuition rates at a UW school or technical college.”

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