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Maximizing My Education Budget: In-State Tuition Options for Green Card Holders and Green Card Applicants in Multiple States


Parents and students alike should be relieved to know that depending on individual state rules and policies, students who have applied for legal permanent residency (LPR), often known as a green card, may be eligible for in-state tuition. Based on a various factors, including residency requirements, immigration status, and documentation, students who are considered residents of a specific state are typically offered in-state tuition rates.

While every state has its own rules, many require documentation of legal status in order to demonstrate residency for the purposes of paying tuition. In general, students who have applied for legal permanent residency (the Green Card) are in a temporary immigration status, and whether they qualify for in-state tuition is based on the state’s specific laws.

Why does it matter?

Cost Savings: One compelling reason why immigrants or green card holders may prefer to pay in-state tuition instead of out-of-state tuition is the significant cost savings. Because in-state tuition is typically significantly cheaper than out-of-state tuition, people can minimize their educational costs and make higher education more accessible. Immigrants and people with green cards who choose in-state tuition might lessen the financial strain brought on by increased tuition costs and improve their money management.

Opportunities exclusive to In-State Residents: Some states provide specialized courses, fellowships, or internships only to residents of the state. Those with green cards or immigrants who pay in-state tuition may benefit from these state-specific options. They might have access to special educational opportunities, choices for financial support, or professional development programs that could improve their academic performance and job prospects for the future. These chances may be targeted to the industries, job markets, or community needs unique to the state, giving immigrants or people with green cards who want to advance their careers in a particular state an advantage.

Long-term Residency: Choosing in-state tuition as a foreign national or green card holder can show that you are determined to establish long-term resident in a particular state. Individuals who pay in-state tuition demonstrate their desire to ingratiate themselves with the area, contribute to the state’s economy, and establish a life there. For individuals who hope to eventually pursue citizenship or permanent residence, this may be especially useful. A foundation for future chances, such as career prospects, professional networks, and community involvement, can be laid by forging ties to the state through schooling.

The Search for In-State Tuition

Certain non-U.S. citizens, including those who have a pending Green Card application, are now eligible for in-state tuition in some states thanks to protective laws that have been passed. These laws, which are also known as “tuition equity” or “residency for tuition purposes” legislation, offer a mechanism for students who fulfill certain requirements, such attending and graduating from a high school in the state, to qualify regardless of their immigration status and be eligible for in-state tuition rates.

It is important to note that these laws and policies may vary, and it is advisable to consult the specific regulations of the state where you plan to pursue education. Here are a few examples of states that have implemented tuition equity or residency for tuition purposes laws:

  • California: California has enacted legislation known as Assembly Bill 540 (AB 540) that allows certain non-U.S. citizens, including green card holders, who meet specific criteria to be eligible for in-state tuition rates. Students must have attended a California high school for a certain period, graduated or obtained a GED, and meet other requirements outlined in the law.
  • Texas: In Texas, the law commonly referred to as House Bill 1403 (HB 1403) allows certain non-U.S. citizens, including green card holders, who have lived in the state for a specified period and meet specific criteria to be eligible for in-state tuition rates. This law is also known as the Texas Dream Act.
  • New York: New York has enacted legislation known as the New York State DREAM Act, which allows certain non-U.S. citizens, including green card holders, who meet specific requirements to be eligible for in-state tuition rates and access state financial aid programs.
  • Illinois: Illinois has implemented the Illinois Dream Act, which allows certain non-U.S. citizens, including green card holders, who have attended and graduated from an Illinois high school to be eligible for in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities in the state.
  • New Mexico: New Mexico has enacted the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship, which provides financial assistance to eligible students, including green card holders, who have graduated from a New Mexico high school and meet specific requirements, including in-state tuition rates.

What if my GC is pending and not granted yet?

There are some states and schools offering the opportunity to re-classify as in-state residents if they can establish certain requirements. One such state is Arkansas. According to the information provided by Arkansas State University, the initial classification of out-of-state residency for tuition purposes does not prevent a student from being considered for reclassification in subsequent semesters or terms of enrollment. However, certain conditions must be met for reclassification.

To be eligible for reclassification, a student must have acquired a bona fide Arkansas domicile, which means establishing a genuine and permanent residence in Arkansas. Additionally, the student must have resided continuously in Arkansas for six months prior to the reclassification application being submitted to the university.

Additionally, the policy also addresses non-immigrant alien students who have petitioned for permanent resident status. These students may be eligible for consideration for in-state tuition six months from the date of petition. This means that once a non-immigrant alien student has filed a petition for permanent resident status, they can be evaluated for in-state tuition eligibility after six months have passed since the date of the petition.

Make sure to check your child’s or your university policies to see if such policies are present!

Take Away?

Being a non-citizen does not immediately stop financial opportunities for in-state tuition or financial aid. It is crucial to look into and analyze the particular laws and regulations of the state in which you want to pursue your education. You should check the policies of the college or university you intend to attend regarding tuition eligibility for students who have legal permanent residency applications both approved and pending. A smart place to start is by getting in touch with the admissions or registrar’s office of the school to find out the most current and correct details about who qualifies for in-state tuition rates.

Reddy & Neumann has been serving the business community for over 20 years and is Houston’s largest immigration law firm focused solely on US. Employment-based immigration. We work with both employers and their employees, helping them navigate the immigration process quickly and cost-effectively. 

By: Juanita Deaver

Juanita Deaver is an Associate Attorney in the I-140 and AOS Department, where she assists clients in the middle and later stages of the green card process.

Juanita earned her J.D. from South Texas College of Law Houston in May 2021. As a law-student, Juanita interned at a non-profit organization where she discovered her passion for immigration while working on family-based cases helping file I-130 petitions and I-485 adjustments of status. During her time at South Texas, she further pursued her interest in the field of immigration law through enrollment in the school’s Immigration Clinics where she worked on TPS, T visas, and DACA cases. Her experience working with families and clients in emergency situations has provided Juanita the tools and experience to provide clear and concise explanations to the seemingly daunting immigration process.

Juanita joined Reddy & Neumann as a law clerk in December 2019. While clerking, she gained valuable experience by working closely under attorneys from each of the firm’s departments on drafting successful requests for evidence, appeals, motions to re-open, and through legal research on immigration matters. Juanita understands that every case is unique and hopes to provide each client with a better understanding of the ever-changing immigration process.