New SHEEO reports examine state policies on tuition, fees, and financial assistance for undocumented students and on COVID-19 effects

To accompany the main report on SHEEO’s 2022 Tuition, Fees and Financial Assistance survey released last week, SHEEO produced two additional reports from the survey responses. One report details COVID-19 pandemic effects on state tuition, fees, and financial assistance policies, and the other examines policies for undocumented students.

Survey responses show that the pandemic impacted several areas of state policy—most significantly through increased funding to state budgets. States received federal funding that they allocated directly to higher education. Some states used these federal funds to protect existing state financial aid programs and initiatives, while others used funding to pilot new programs. Nearly all states were able to keep their state financial aid programs intact during the pandemic, with 14 states reporting new or expanded state programs as part of their pandemic response. 

“Only two states (Nevada and Oregon) reported a reduction in their state financial aid budgets due to COVID-19,” said Jessica Colorado, SHEEO policy analyst. 

When asked if COVID-19 led to any short-term programs or policies that impacted tuition and fees at institutions, particularly for undergraduate students, 10 states reported changes in both sectors, one state reported changes in the two-year sector, and four states in the four-year sector. A greater number of states (58%) froze or limited tuition during the second year of the pandemic compared to the first (48%).

The survey also included several questions about how state policies treat and affect undocumented students at public institutions in each state. At the federal level, most students born outside of the U.S. are ineligible for federal financial aid. These same students are often also ineligible for state financial aid programs, many of which model their eligibility requirements on those established at the federal level. In addition to their ineligibility for federal and most state financial aid, undocumented students confront a variety of policies regulating eligibility for in-state tuition at state postsecondary institutions. 

“State policies regulating undocumented students’ eligibility for in-state tuition at public two- and four-year institutions and their access to state grant aid vary widely across the U.S.,” said Rachel Burns, SHEEO senior policy analyst. 

State tuition policies for undocumented students are also not consistent across sectors. While states are equally likely to offer in-state tuition to undocumented students in the two- and four-year sectors (26% and 25%, respectively), they are more likely to require undocumented students in the four-year sector to pay out-of-state tuition or to mandate that students meet certain requirements (e.g., as undocumented, non-resident, or international students) for in-state tuition. In contrast, the two-year sector is more likely to have no statewide policy.

In addition to tuition policies, states also develop policies regulating undocumented students’ eligibility for state grant aid. Forty-nine percent of states report that undocumented students are ineligible for state financial aid due to state policies, while 12% block student eligibility based on federal policies. Because state policies vary in how undocumented students are classified (e.g., as undocumented, non-resident, or international students), some undocumented students may be eligible for tuition waivers granted to non-resident or international students.

All three State Tuition, Fees, and Financial Assistance Policies 2022 reports, as well as the survey instrument, the longitudinal dataset, and technical report, can be found online at