Press Release

Rhode Island passes historic in-state tuition legislation

Under the legislation, students would be eligible if they attended high school for three or more consecutive years; continue to reside in the state, graduated from high school or received a high school equivalency diploma from Rhode Island; and filed an affidavit stating that the student has filed an application for lawful immigration status.
Photo for Rhode Island passes historic in-state tuition legislation

Published on July 7, 2021

The following is a press release and not an Uprise RI-written news story.

Rhode Island state legislators passed a breakthrough bill that will assist thousands of undocumented immigrants to pursue higher education. The Rhode Island Student Success Act (H5238) codifies an existing policy, submitted by Governor Lincoln Chaffee and passed in 2011 by the Rhode Island Board of Higher Education (RIBoG), that granted in-state tuition rates to all Rhode Islanders seeking to obtain a college degree in the state, regardless of immigration status.

Like that policy, under this legislation students would be eligible to pay in-state tuition if they attended high school for three or more consecutive years; continue to reside in the state, graduated from high school or received a high school equivalency diploma from Rhode Island; and filed an affidavit stating that the student has filed an application for lawful immigration status.

“This is an issue that I am extremely passionate about. As someone who came to this country with very little, I know first-hand the opportunities that a good education can bring to someone who is willing to work hard,” said Representative Grace Diaz (Democrat, District 11, Providence), who sponsored by bill. “With limited skills-based jobs, improving college affordability is becoming a bigger priority for everyone. And we have so much untapped potential that has come into our state from all over the world.”

Under the legislation, students would be eligible if they attended high school for three or more consecutive years; continue to reside in the state, graduated from high school or received a high school equivalency diploma from Rhode Island; and filed an affidavit stating that the student has filed an application for lawful immigration status.

The Coalition of Advocates for Student Opportunities (CASO), leading supporters of the measure, stated that it would give immigrant students who may have a hard time in school the incentive to graduate and attend a college or university. Eventually, these students will become tax-paying residents of Rhode Island and contribute to the economy of our state.

Marta V Martínez, Chair of CASO and who has continued to work alongside Representative Díaz for the past 17 years on the submitted legislation, said she felt deep emotion watching the bill being presented before committee and then the floor. “It was bittersweet witnessing passage of the bill this year. For years members of CASO, students and community allies filled committee rooms and testified in person before various committees, only to leave feeling defeated. This year, as I sat in front of my computer screen, I held the original sign I made 19 years ago and then cried as the final vote took place! I yearned to hug other members of CASO, plus some of the students who would benefit from the legislation. Instead, I began sending text messages to as many of the students who would be directly affected as soon as the final vote was counted.” Martínez added that the passage of the Rhode Island Student Success Act is first of many priorities for the undocumented community of Rhode Island, and that includes gaining rights to a driver’s license. “We hope this can be accomplished early next legislative season.”

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