Governor Helps Keep College Affordable For Immigrants

August 9, 2002 | The University

Governor George E. Pataki today signed into law legislation he proposed to allow undocumented immigrants attending the City University of New York (CUNY) and the State University of New York (SUNY) to be charged the State resident tuition level.

“New York has been a beacon of freedom and opportunity for generations, and those who have come to our shores have made tremendous contributions to our State and Nation,” Governor Pataki said. “This legislation reinforces New York’s proud legacy as a bastion of hope and opportunity by ensuring access to a high-quality, affordable higher education for hard-working immigrants.”

Since 1989, CUNY had allowed undocumented immigrants to pay the State resident tuition level if the student met certain qualifications, but that policy was changed in the Fall of 2001 (to be effective in the Spring Semester of 2002) to be consistent with the 1996 Federal Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.

CUNY’s resident tuition is $3,200 per year and its non-resident rate is $6,800 per year at the senior colleges. SUNY’s senior college resident tuition is $3,400 per year and its non-resident rate is $8,300 per year. Under the new law, eligible students will save thousands of dollars through the course of their college education, potentially making the difference between being able to attend college or not. Similar laws have also been enacted in California and Texas.

Senator Pedro Espada said, “This is a major victory for the Governor and those of us who fought with him to enhance educational opportunities for immigrant students of New York State, particularly those who are eager to constructively contribute to our State.”

Senator Olga Mendez said, “Once more, Governor Pataki has shown caring for all Spanish speaking communities in New York State. With this bill, immigrant students will be able to afford higher education. This is just another example of the Governor’s genuine concern for all the people in the State of New York.”

Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat said, “I commend the Governor’s leadership for standing up for immigrants throughout the State of New York, particularly for immigrant students who are in dire need of access to higher education.”

Assemblyman Peter M. Rivera, Chairman of the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force said, “Governor Pataki’s leadership on this important issue needs to be recognized as the key ingredient that has brought a solution to a situation that threatened the higher education hopes of thousands of our friends, neighbors and fellow residents. This law is a testament to the greatness of our nation and the courage of people. Even after the events of September 11, the fearlessness of true statesmen will not allow this nation of immigrants to forget what has made it great.”

The Governor’s legislation, developed in consultation with members of the Senate and Assembly who had introduced similar legislation, provides specific criteria for eligibility for the resident tuition level charge at SUNY or CUNY, consistent with Federal Law. These criteria emphasize a student=s ties to New York and include:

  • The student attended a New York State high school for at least two years, and applied for attendance at SUNY or CUNY within five years of receiving a New York State high school diploma; or
  • The student attended a New York State approved program for general equivalency diploma (GED) exam preparation, received a GED issued within New York State, and applied for attendance at SUNY or CUNY within five years of receiving a NYS issued GED; or
  • The student was enrolled at SUNY or CUNY in the Fall of 2001 and was authorized to pay the resident tuition rate at that time; and
  • The student files an affidavit with the college stating that he or she has applied to legalize his or her immigration status, if applicable, or will do so as soon as he or she is eligible.

Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez, President of the Hispanic Federation, said, “Immigrants arrive here with the dream of building a better life and this critical legislation affords them the opportunity to better achieve this through education. We are very pleased by the efforts of Governor Pataki and the State Assembly, particularly through the ongoing commitment of Assemblymen Peter Rivera and Adriano Espaillat, to have this tuition bill enacted into law.”

CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein said, AI commend Governor George E. Pataki for his exemplary leadership in the development and enactment of the immigrant student legislation. I thank Senator Pedro Espada, Assemblymembers Adriano Espaillat and Peter Rivera, and the New York State Legislature for their visionary efforts to assist thousands of hard-working and ambitious students to realize their dreams through higher education opportunity.”

CUNY Vice Chair Benno C. Schmidt Jr. said, “Governor Pataki and the legislative sponsors of the immigrant student bill have rendered an invaluable service in support of the education of newcomers to our great City and State. They have significantly strengthened the historic role of The City University of New York in serving as the principal ladder of upward mobility for immigrants and their children.”

SUNY Chancellor Robert L. King said, “Governor Pataki continues to provide great leadership to make higher education affordable and accessible at the State University and the City University of New York. Higher education at public universities has always been the gateway to opportunity and Governor Pataki’s action today helps make that dream a reality for even more people.” It is estimated that approximately 3,000 undocumented immigrants currently attend public universities at the City University of New York and the State University of New York, with the majority, or roughly 2,800 attending CUNY.