Poster Paper: The Consequences of Preventing Undocumented Youth from Eligibility for in-State Tuition at State Colleges & Universities

Friday, November 7, 2014
Ballroom B (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Raymond A. Zuniga, American University
Increased migration has created challenges for states in which the political climate promotes policies that do not allow undocumented residents to access basic services.  This paper examines one such service – public education – and looks specifically at policies that prevent undocumented youth from being eligible for in-state tuition at state colleges and universities. These policies have been enacted by six states and require undocumented students to pay out-of-state tuition, even if they have lived in the state for the majority of their lives and graduated from a state high school. The financial burden this places on undocumented students creates a barrier to postsecondary education that in turn affects prospects for long-term earning capacity and social mobility. When faced with these options, many undocumented youth realize that their dreams do not match reality.  They often choose to drop out of high-school and/or shift their efforts to the labor force to provide financial support for their families.

This manuscript compares undocumented youth in states with and without such policies, examining specifically whether there are differences in (1) propensity to drop out of high school and (2) average number of hours worked per week during high school. I hypothesize that undocumented youth in states with policies that require out-of-state tuition will be more likely than those in other states to drop out of high school, and they will work more hours on average as well. 

To test these questions, I will utilize a difference-in-difference research design based on data from the March supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS) from 1996-2013.  The March supplement includes a nationally representative sample of 60,000 households in the US, along with an additional sample of 4,500 Hispanic households.  This additional sample is important as undocumented youth are mostly of Hispanic origin.  Other papers utilize the Merged Outgoing Rotation Group of the CPS, but these data do not include information regarding annual income, which is important for measuring the financial capabilities of the household.  With this examination, this manuscript contributes to the many policy debates currently surrounding undocumented immigrant youth today, especially those in states considering a similar policy strategy.  This contribution is significant given the long-running policy debates at the federal level concerning comprehensive immigration reform or the DREAM Act, both of which may provide a path to citizenship for those graduating from high school and thus the opportunity to improve the economic and social mobility for not only themselves, but society at large.