Department or Program


Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Markella Rutherford


In the United States, allowing undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition has been an oddly contentious topic in legal, political, and social realms. It is at once a debate about immigration law, federalism, sentiment towards immigrants, and the direction for the nation. This thesis explores the various laws and policies that each state across the country holds for allowing undocumented students to receive in-state tuition. In addition to this nationwide survey of states, I focus on four state case studies to explore key factors that led states to grant or deny in-state tuition to undocumented people. An important factor is the shared immigration deep stories, or shared emotional outlook, that I set forth. Emotional deep stories conceiving of America as a Birthright or America as a Meritocracy are reflected in state policies toward undocumented students. Other factors that are analyzed include state political culture, economic sectors, and time when these policies changed. My goal is to evaluate the mechanisms and reasons that allow undocumented students to receive in-state tuition.