Unlawfully Present Aliens, Higher Education, In-State Tuition, and Financial Aid: Legal Analysis [March 28, 2014] [open pdf - 349KB]
"The existence of a sizable population of 'DREAMers' in the United States has prompted questions about unlawfully present aliens' eligibility for admission to public institutions of higher education, in-state tuition, and financial aid. The term DREAMer is widely used to describe aliens who were brought to the United States as children and raised here but lack legal immigration status. As children, DREAMers are entitled to public elementary and secondary education as a result of the Supreme Court's 1982 decision in 'Plyler v. Doe.' There, the Court struck down a Texas statute that prohibited the use of state funds to provide elementary and secondary education to children who were not 'legally admitted' to the United States because the state distinguished between these children and other children without a 'substantial' goal, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Once DREAMers complete high school, however, they may have less access to public higher education. Plyler's holding was limited to elementary and secondary education, and the Court's focus on the young age of those whom Texas denied a 'basic education' has generally been taken to mean that measures denying unlawfully present aliens access to higher education may be subject to less scrutiny than the Texas statute was. Thus, several states have adopted laws or practices barring the enrollment of unlawfully present aliens at public institutions of higher education."
CRS Report for Congress, R43447