Richmond, VA. July 1, 2020 – The Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO) celebrates the July 1st implementation of the Virginia Dream Act that will expand in-state tuition accessibility to include undocumented immigrant students residing in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This means that as of today, all Virginia students regardless of their status who meet Virginia residency requirements will be eligible for in-state tuition rates at all the state’s public universities and colleges. Specifically, undocumented students who provide proof of filed taxes and have attended high school in the state for at least two years, been homeschooled in the state or have passed a high school equivalency exam prior to enrolling in a state institution of higher learning will qualify.
According to a 2018 report by the Commonwealth Institute, “lowering the cost barrier to obtain an education means more productive Virginians, helps employers find the workers they need, and strengthens the state’s economy. In exchange, young people…invest by paying a portion of college costs and spending thousands of hours studying and learning, developing skills that should boost earnings and job opportunities in the future. The state…benefits from this partnership, since workers who make decent incomes are able to provide more stability and opportunities for their own children.”
“July 2020 marks the beginning of a new chapter of prosperity for Virginia,” said Beatriz Amberman, Chair of the VACOLAO Board. “In-State Tuition for all regardless of immigration status opens the doors of opportunity to everyone with the desire to study, work hard and achieve. The contributions of these individuals and the economic benefit that it will bring to Virginia is an investment we’ll be very proud to have made.”
Edgar Aranda-Yanoc, Executive Director of VACOAO, highlighted that “this enormous legislative victory comes after many years of struggle by a diverse coalition of advocates, community members and the students themselves who travelled to Richmond year after year to fight for this vital legislation that will enhance education equity for all of Virginia’s students.” In 2014, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring extended in-state tuition to those students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status. We are grateful that now, thanks to the Virginia General Assembly and the leadership of Delegate Alfonso Lopez, Senators Jennifer Boysko and Ghazala Hashmi and Governor Northam, legislation that includes all Virginia students has finally become law.
VACOLAO and our partners understand that the passage of this law is only the first step for Virginia immigrant students as they work to achieve their educational goals. Immigrant youth must act now to ensure that they qualify for the reduced tuition rates.
“Our community fought long and hard for this victory, but now the burden is on each individual student to make sure they apply for reclassification before the start of the fall semester,” said Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, Legal Director of the Immigrant Advocacy Program at the Legal Aid Justice Center. “No-one—neither currently enrolled students, nor incoming students—is automatically getting in-state tuition under this new law, everyone has to fill out the forms and get the paperwork processed. Immigrant students should get started on that process immediately and ask for help if they get stuck.”
For months, the high school students participating in Edu-Futuro’s Emerging Leaders Program have been preparing for the expansion of in-state tuition. “All our youth receive mentorship and detailed guidance on the life-changing opportunities offered by the Virginia Dream Act,“ said Edu-Futuro Executive Director Jorge Figueredo. “In addition, more than a hundred of our students and parents were able to witness democracy in action when they joined VACOLAO for Immigrant Advocacy Day and when they visited legislators earlier this year in Richmond. Now they can see how civic engagement can lead to concrete changes, and to better lives for themselves and for their families.”
The Mason DREAMers of George Mason University are working with their allies to help students meet the eligibility requirements and filing deadlines Mason DREAMers External President Paola Choque stated that “although we are still waiting for some guidance from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), we are actively in conversation with the Mason administration and our external resources to find the best ways to guide our incoming and current students who will be benefiting from this law. We recommend students look over the requirements that are outlined to be eligible for in state tuition and have those ready for when we have clear and set guidelines on this process. If students have any questions they are encouraged to reach out to us through our email at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
VACOLAO encourages immigrant students to also watch an informative video on the new law that can be viewed here: VACOLAO’s Legislative Debriefing Forum, and also a fact sheet with answer to frequently asked questions that is found here: Expanded Immigrant Eligibility for VA In-State Tuition
### VACOLAO’s mission is to serve as a working alliance among organizations in Virginia that serve or support the interest of the Latino communities in order to empower the community and secure equal treatment, equal opportunity and equal representation for Latinos/Hispanics in Virginia.
 Goren, Laura, Stewart, Chad, In-State Tuition is a Common Sense, Low-Cost Investment for Virginia, The Commonwealth Institute, p. 2, January 2018, available at http://www.thecommonwealthinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/In-State-Tuition-is-Common-Sense-Investment-2018.pdf.