Illegal immigrants will soon be eligible for free college tuition in Minnesota.
Some immigrants living in the U.S. illegally will be able to apply for Minnesota’s new free tuition program passed last month by the legislature’s Democratic majority.
The program, called the “North Star Promise,” covers tuition at the University of Minnesota or Minnesota State systems for students whose families make $80,000 a year or less.
“We want to make sure that when we’re expanding opportunities for everybody, we’re doing it for all Minnesotans, regardless of background, regardless of their documentation status,” said state Senator Omar Fateh, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Higher Education committee.
Fateh said one impetus for the bill is declining enrollment at public college campuses across the state.
“We’ve been seeing declining enrollment on all campuses,” Fateh said. “If we don’t do something quick, we’re at risk of shutting down some campuses. … I see this bill as an enrollment driver.”
Applicants must meet residency requirements, which can include graduating from a Minnesota high school or living in the state for a year without being enrolled full-time in college.
Students must also submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, and once they receive the tuition, they must remain in good academic standing to keep it.
Republicans criticized the program, arguing that the $80,000 limit is unfair to students whose parents work multiple jobs but could still use the financial aid.
Some Republicans complained that they were not included in the legislative process to pass the education bill.
Representative Marion O’Neill, the only Republican on the committee, who wrote the legislative language of the program, said she was “completely frozen out of all discussions.”
The free tuition program is estimated to cost about $117 million for the first year. The program will cost $49.5 million every year following that.
It does not begin until the 2024-2025 school year.
Minnesota’s free college incentive for illegal immigrants comes just after a flood of migrants illegally crossed the southern border following a Trump-era restriction’s expiration.
Title 42, which allowed border authorities to send migrants back to Mexico quickly over COVID concerns, expired last month, prompting several days of record numbers of migrants entering the country illegally.
California also allows illegal migrants to receive free tuition. However, only about 14% of migrants who are eligible for California’s program ended up applying.
Democrats have used their majority in the Minnesota legislature to pass laws granting illegal immigrants other benefits.
One new law allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.
Another new law will give more than 40,000 illegal immigrants in Minnesota access to the state’s public health insurance program. Minnesota, California, and Washington, D.C., are the only places in the U.S. allowing all low-income people, including illegal immigrants, access to public health insurance. Several other states allow illegal immigrant minors and certain adults to access public health insurance.