Last week, the University of Michigan adopted a new tuition policy that would grant in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants and members of the military, Kim Kozlowski of The Detroit News reports. The Board of Regents approved the changes in a 6-2 vote Thursday night.
Casting votes against the new policy – which had the support of groups representing military families and undocumented students – were Andrea Fischer Newman and Andrew Richner. Richner explained his vote by saying that the policy, as written, wasn't clear.
Students who now qualify for in-state tuition are set to realize substantial savings. According to Kozlowski, the price of tuition at UM is $13,000 per year for state-residents and $39,000 for out-of-staters. Those without legal residency can qualify for the lower price tag by attending a Michigan middle school for two years and a Michigan high school for three years. The eligibility will continue if undocumented students enroll within 28 months after high school graduation.
Before the vote, some called on U-M to work to help students pay for tuition. Others asked for the middle school provision to be nixed. Most said the policy needed to be passed, to help students who often come from families with limited incomes.
"We can't afford not to pass it," said Laura Sanders, a faculty member and member of the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights. "So as many youth as possible can see their dreams come true rather than lose their faith."
Daniel Alejandro Morales, spokesman for U-M's Coalition for Tuition Equality, added that the new policy is a step in the right direction, but it only covers tuition and the group will work with the university to help students overcome financial barriers to the in-state tuition with scholarships and grants.
Although the provisions for undocumented immigrants grabbed the most headlines after the new policy was passed, among those who will now also qualify for in-state tuition will be active members of the military and armed services veterans who are not from the state. Public education leaders hope that the change will attract more vets — and their federal GI Bill dollars — to Michigan. Previously, only veterans who were from Michigan qualified for lower tuition.
According to Michael Dakduk, executive director of Student Veterans for America, who spoke before the vote, adopting the new rules to vets would make Michigan one of several states that extend in-state tuition benefits to members of the military.
That, he said, is the next step for Michigan, where a few universities offer in-state tuition to undocumented students, including Western Michigan, Wayne State, Northern Michigan and Saginaw Valley State.
"It's something that is overdue," Dakduk said. "Military veterans did not just serve one state, they served their entire country."