Fox Falsely Portrays In-State Tuition For Undocumented Immigrants As Being Provided “On The Backs Of Legal Students”

Fox misrepresented the effect of a Massachusetts plan to provide access to its state colleges for some immigrants in order to falsely suggest that this plan would be a burden on other students and taxpayers.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

On November 19, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick reiterated a policy granting undocumented students the ability to qualify for state resident tuition rates at state colleges. The Massachusetts DREAM Act would allow young people who meet federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals criteria to receive in-state tuition rates if they meet residency requirements.

On the December 3 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade opened by misrepresenting the law, asking, “Should illegals be allowed to get a break on in-state tuition on the backs of legal students?” He followed up by claiming Massachusetts had made this possible. Kilmeade hosted Massachusetts State Rep. James Lyons who asserted that the law forces “struggling taxpayers of Massachusetts to subsidize those who are breaking the rules.” Co-host Kilmeade agreed with Lyon: "[Y]ou believe you should actually be an in-state resident and legal in order to receive [in-state tuition]. What a novel thought." From the show:

Kilmeade never offered evidence demonstrating how the policy would hurt states or taxpayers. In fact, research has shown that providing in-state tuition rates to qualified undocumented immigrants offers some benefits.

According to the National Immigration Law Center, experts say that revenue to the schools actually increase as a result of enrollment by these immigrants:

In fact the money paid by these students actually tends to increase school revenues because it represents income that would not otherwise be there.


Each person who attends college and obtains a professional job means one less drain on the social service (and possibly criminal justice) budgets of the state and an asset in terms of payment of taxes and the attraction to the state of high-wage employers seeking well-educated workers.

Currently, only about 5 to 10 percent of undocumented young people who graduate from high school go on to college, compared with about 75 percent of their classmates.

Citing a study from the Roger Williams University's Latino Policy Institute studying the effects of such a policy in Rhode Island, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition “can be a plus for both states and students,” because it allows students to go to college that would not be able to pay the higher price and the long term benefits helps the states “when they buy more goods and pay more taxes.” The Roger Williams study goes on to state:

The results of this systematic review found that in-state tuition is correlated with a 31% increase in enrollment at institutes of higher education by non-citizens. If 31% more non-citizen students pursued higher education in Rhode Island, that would be a total gain of 24 additional full time undergraduate students. This gain would constitute a tuition surplus for the local colleges and universities.

Studies have also disagreed with the claim that allowing undocumented immigrants to receive in-state tuition hurts “legal students.” The National Immigration Law Center found very little effect on U.S. citizen students who want to go to college because of the stringent guidelines required to receive the benefit:

  • Students must live in state and attend high school for a specified period (1-4 years).
  • They must graduate or receive their GED.
  • Students must be accepted to a public college or university, and
  • Must sign an affidavit stating their intention to file for legal immigration status.
  • Nine of the 12 states that allow undocumented students to receive in-state tuition rates do not allow undocumented students to receive state-funded financial aid.

The NCIC further stated: “It should be remembered that the numerical impact of in-state tuition is minimal: Less than 2 percent of this year's graduating class are undocumented immigrants, and only a fraction of these will attend college even if they are able to pay the in-state rate. In most states, we are talking about only a few dozen or a few hundred particularly talented students.”

It is also important to note that polls found more Americans support laws that grant in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants with more than 90 percent of Latinos supporting the laws. Maryland recently granted undocumented students in-state tuition rights with 58 percent of citizens voting in favor of their DREAM Act.