The Effect of In-State Tuition Policies on College Decisions: Evidence from Colorado

May 24, 2018

Picture1.jpg Economics graduate student Annie Hines evaluated Colorado's policy of granting in-state tuition to unauthorized foreigners since 2013, and found that the lower tuition rates provided by the Advancing Students for a Stronger Tomorrow (ASSET) program created by SB 13-033 appears to have increased their college enrollment rates, credit hours pursued, and going to college full time. Economics graduate student Matthew Naven noted that the policy went into effect in 2013, but the data used to estimate its effects covered 2008-14, making it difficult to interpret the results.


In 2013, Colorado became the 15th state to pass a law effectively granting in-state tuition to undocumented students while keeping with a federal ban on specifically targeting them for financial aid. In this paper, we evaluate the effects of Colorado’s Advancing Students for a Stronger Tomorrow (ASSET) legislation on the college application, enrollment, persistence, and credit hours of Colorado undergraduates using a differences-in-differences methodology. In the absence of information on legal immigration status, we construct a plausible treatment group from Hispanic non-resident non-citizens who attended high school in Colorado. We find evidence of an increase in the enrollment of likely undocumented students, and an increase in the the number of enrolled credits of new students. We do not find evidence of policy-induced changes in the persistence, full-time status or credit hours completed of continuing students, however.

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Naven's Comments (Summary)

This paper explores how expanding in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants affects the postsecondary behavior of Hispanic non-resident alien students who went to high school in the state of Colorado. The policy caused a substantial decrease in tuition costs of up to 60%. The authors find that while there is essentially no effect on the cohort of students already enrolled in college prior to the legislation, they find that the target population was more likely to enroll in college and took more credit hours after the legislation went into effect. This is one of the first papers to examine how tuition changes affect college application, as most other papers have focused on outcomes observed for students who attend college such as enrollment and graduation. This research is interesting not only for its implications for undocumented immigrants, but also in the broader context of increasing college access for disadvantaged populations who may experience low economic mobility.

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