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Undocumented Immigrants and State Higher Education Policy: The Politics of In-State Tuition Eligibility in Texas and Arizona

By Kevin Dougherty, H. Kenny Nienhusser & Blanca Vega

Every year, about 65,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high schools. A major obstacle to their attending college is not being eligible for in-state tuition. Today, nine states permit it, while four prohibit it. Even if the federal DREAM Act passes, state policy decisions will continue to strongly shape college opportunities for undocumented students.

This situation makes the contrasting policies of Texas and Arizona—one permits in-state tuition eligibility, and the other prohibits it—highly instructive. To analyze the political origins of their divergent responses, the authors draw on the advocacy coalition framework and policy entrepreneurship theory of policymaking.

This article appears in The Review of Higher Education, vol. 34, issue 1.