The Arkansas Senate passed House Bill 1684 on Apr. 3, allowing DACA students to receive in-state tuition at state-funded Arkansas universities.
DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, allows individuals who were brought to the United States as children to legally live and work in the United States.
The new in-state tuition law also applies to students who migrated to the United States from the Marshall Islands and students with work visas. UCA junior Javier Hernandez believes this new law can have a large impact at UCA.
“I don’t think that many of our faculty, staff, and students realize the positive impact this law will have on [these students],” Hernandez said. “Many immigrants who live in Arkansas have lived in the state most of, if not their whole, life. These people have gone to our high schools, lived in our communities, and are Arkansans.”
Hernandez said with the passing of this law, college is being made more affordable for a larger number of students and that it is “extending the possibility of receiving a higher education to hundreds more students.”
“The United States’ school system is all [these students] know. Charging them in-state tuition is a step in the right direction,” UCA senior Xochitl Shields said.
The price of college has increased in the last few decades. According to The College Board, with inflation adjusted, public four-year institutions cost an average of $3,360 in the 1988-1989 academic year, and these same institutions cost an average of $10,230 in the 2018-2019 academic year.
At the University of Central Arkansas, in-state tuition for the 2018-2019 academic year is $9,188.30 for 15 hours each semester, and $15,998.30 for 15 hours each semester with out-of-state tuition.
This bill does not require each qualified university to allow these students to receive in-state tuition. It is up to each university to decide to grant in-state tuition to these students.
UCA Director of Media Relations Amanda Hoelzeman said UCA is working with the Arkansas Department of Higher Education to figure out the rules and implementation of the act.
“We are also working on our own internal record-keeping process to ensure that all the pieces are in place to make this work,” Hoelzeman said. “We plan to have a process fully in place for qualifying students this fall.”
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Dan Douglas, who received some criticism for this law.
According to the Arkansas Times, in response to some of the critics who believed these eligible students would be receiving full rides, Douglas said there is “nothing free about it.”
“It’s just giving these kids that grew up here, that are here legally or they’ve attained legal status through the DACA program, the ability to get in-state tuition,” Douglas said. “They still have to pay every dollar.”