Impact of Administrative Burdens on Undocumented Youth Access to Higher Education and Benefits from In-State Resident Tuition

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Virginia Tech


In the United States, some states and higher education institutions allow undocumented students to pay in-state resident tuition at public colleges and universities. Yet, when undocumented youth apply and seek to qualify for in-state tuition, they find bureaucratic procedures and rules that may discourage them from applying at all, delay, or hamper their access to higher education. The study explores how such bureaucratic requirements impose learning, compliance, and psychological burdens on undocumented youth. Building upon administrative burdens scholarship and using qualitative and quantitative analyses of admissions applications at the institutional level, undocumented students reports' of their experiences, and surveys of college admissions officers, this study examines the admissions requirements and other factors that may shape the applications of undocumented students to colleges in the states providing ISRT benefits for undocumented youth. The findings suggest that undocumented youth navigate multifaceted institutional contexts across and within states, including requirements and rules at different organizational levels and interactions with admissions officers whose discretion may facilitate or obstruct access. Variations in ISRT requirements reflect states' patterns of immigration, demographics, political (sub) cultures, narratives about the deservingness, organizational factors as well as the discretion that college personnel has in applying the requirements. Findings suggest that factors associated with residency, notarized affidavits, tax forms, and lack of clear information and guidance from college personnel substantially increase burdens when undocumented youth seek to benefit from ISRT. Certainly, when states, institutions, and admissions officers establish and shape ISRT requirements, they implicitly influence the sense of belonging and membership of undocumented applicants and mediate intergovernmental tension surrounding legalization and inclusion of this population in society.



undocumented students, U.S. immigration policy, in-state resident tuition policy, administrative burdens, higher education access, college admissions officers