Iowa does not require US citizenship to cover in-state tuition. A Republican bill would end that


Hector Salamanca Arroyo placed his diploma from Drake University on the table in front of him and told lawmakers he remembers stressing over whether he would qualify for in-state tuition when he was 18 years old more than a decade ago.

Arroyo, who was undocumented at the time, received in-state tuition and studied criminal justice at Des Moines Area Community College before transferring to Drake, where he graduated with honors in 2015. Qualifying for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program allowed him to… He works legally in the country so he can pay for his education.

He said: “I began my educational journey by qualifying for in-state tuition fees.”

Arroyo was speaking Monday against a bill in the Iowa House of Representatives that would prevent undocumented students from qualifying for in-state tuition at three public universities and 15 community colleges in Iowa.

House file 2128 The order would require universities and community colleges in Iowa to adopt rules specifying that students must either be U.S. citizens or legally present in the country to receive in-state tuition.

A House subcommittee voted 2-1 Monday afternoon to advance the bill, sending it to the full House Judiciary Committee for consideration. Representatives Taylor Collins, Republican of Mediapolis, and Skyler Wheeler, Republican of Hull, voted in favor of the resolution, while Representative Sammy Sheetz, Democrat of Cedar Rapids, opposed it.

“This is a very simple case,” Collins said. “If you come to this country illegally, we will not support your college education.”

Several Iowans spoke against the bill in subcommittee Monday.

Arroyo, who became a US citizen while deployed overseas with the Colorado Army National Guard, asked lawmakers to vote no “and uphold our proud tradition in Iowa of providing education for all.”

“Whether you admit it or not, these are Iowans who aspire to continue their education in their home state,” he said. “Iowans who aspire to become future Hurricanes, Panthers and Falcons the same way I did in 2012. They deserve to be treated like citizens of Iowa and qualify for in-state education.”

Ariana Davis, of Des Moines, said she came to the United States from Mexico when she was 3 years old. She studied at DMACC before earning her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Iowa State University.

It was in-state tuition, plus scholarships and DACA status, that allowed her to pay for her education out of her own pocket.

“This dress that I’m wearing, I wore it when I became an American citizen two years ago,” Davis told lawmakers. “But I can confirm that I have been an American since I was three years old. And I am here to defend the pursuit of happiness for other Americans who lack the legal status that Americans have, but who are Americans anyway.”

No one spoke in favor of the bill on Monday.

How much is in-state tuition in Iowa? How is it determined?

One-year in-state tuition at the University of Iowa was $9,016 in the 2023-24 academic year, while non-resident tuition was $30,979.

At Iowa State University, one-year in-state tuition this year is $8,982, while non-resident tuition is $26,168.

At the University of Northern Iowa, in-state students pay $8,396 annually in tuition, while out-of-state students pay $19,940.

Lawmakers’ eligibility for in-state tuition is determined by Iowa residency, not citizenship, said Keith Saunders, a lobbyist for the Iowa Board of Trustees.

“If you graduate from a high school in Iowa, you are presumed to be an in-state resident and are eligible for in-state tuition,” he said. “If you are not a resident, there is an assumption that you are an out-of-state student.”

The Board of Regents is on record as having not made a decision on the bill, but Saunders asked lawmakers not to require the state’s public universities to create additional campus bureaucracy to collect proof of citizenship from students and rule on whether students’ documents are genuine.

Des Moines Area Community College website It says undocumented students and DACA recipients are eligible for in-state tuition as long as they have lived in Iowa for 90 days, attended and graduated from an Iowa high school and can submit a high school transcript that provides proof of attendance.

Sheetz said lawmakers should focus on more pressing issues related to higher education, such as the level of financial support the state provides for its public universities and rising costs for students.

“We don’t want guardians in Iowa turning to our immigration services, where they have to check every college applicant to see if they’re citizens,” he said.

Steven Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa House and politics for The Record. He can be reached via email at or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.

This article originally appeared in the Des Moines Register: Lawmakers are introducing a bill that would require U.S. citizenship for in-state tuition

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