Does Reducing College Costs Improve Educational Outcomes for Undocumented Immigrants? Evidence from State Laws Permitting Undocumented Immigrants to Pay In-State Tuition at State Colleges and Universities

Part of the Immigrants and Minorities, Politics and Policy book series (IMPP)


Ten states, beginning with Texas and California in 2001, have passed laws permitting undocumented students to pay the in-state tuition rate—rather than the more expensive out-of-state tuition rate—at public universities and colleges. We exploit state-time variation in the passage of the laws to evaluate the effects of these laws on the educational outcomes of Hispanic childhood immigrants who are not US citizens. Specifically, through the use of individual-level data from the 2001–2005 American Community Surveys supplemented by the 2000 US Census, we estimate the effect of the laws on the probability of attending college for 18- to 24-year-olds who have a high school degree and the probability of dropping out of high school for 16- to 17-year-olds. We find some evidence suggestive of a positive effect of the laws on the college attendance of older Mexican men, although estimated effects of the laws, in general, are not significantly different from zero. We discuss various reasons for the estimated zero effects. Two important considerations are that little time has elapsed since the state laws were passed and that unchanged federal policy on financial aid and legalization for undocumented students may dampen the state laws’ benefits. Thus, the longer-run effects of the laws may well differ from the short-run effects presented in this chapter.


Educational Outcome American Community Survey High School Degree Undocumented Immigrant College Attendance 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Peter Mieszkowski, Stephen Trejo, and the participants in the IUPLR Conference in April 2007 for helpful comments and discussion. We also thank Aly Capetillo, Serguei Chervachidze, and Parul Mathur for research assistance. Financial support from Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy is gratefully acknowledged. The authors bear sole responsibility for the content of this chapter.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of HoustonHoustonUSA
  2. 2.National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)CambridgeUSA

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