ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan applauded the University of Michigan Board Of Regents today for extending in-state tuition rates to all students who attended high school and middle school in Michigan, regardless of their immigration status.

“We are delighted that University has decided that these students should be granted the same opportunity to obtain an affordable education as their classmates,” said Kary L. Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director. “This decision provides a lifeline for hard-working students who have persevered, often against long odds, to gain acceptance to the University of Michigan and fulfill their dreams of going to school and working.”

Under the new policy, students who attend a Michigan middle school for two years, then attend a Michigan high school for at least three years before graduating, will qualify for in-state tuition as long as they attend the University within 28 months of graduation. This year, in-state tuition will cost students at U of M $13,142, while out-of-state students will pay $40,392.

The ACLU of Michigan worked closely with the student-led Coalition for Tuition Equality, which has lobbied the University since 2011 to extend in-state tuition rates to undocumented students who attended high school in Michigan. In March, the ACLU of Michigan wrote a letter to the Board of Regents addressing the legality of amending the University’s tuition requirements.

“Today, the University of Michigan takes an important step toward educational equality, adding to the University’s rich history of inclusiveness,” said Mark Bernstein, U of M regent. “By making education at the University of Michigan more accessible for hard-working students regardless of income or immigration status, we are breathing life into the American dream for hundreds of qualified students.”

The University of Michigan now joins the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education and the University of Hawaii Board of Regents who have recently adopted similar policies. In addition, there are fifteen states that have passed laws permitting certain undocumented students who have attended and graduated from their primary and secondary schools to pay the same tuition as their classmates. They include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington. Only California, Texas, New Mexico, and Minnesota offer financial aid for undocumented students.

In Michigan, most other universities charge out-of-state tuition to undocumented students. According to the Detroit Free Press, Western Michigan University offers in-state tuition rates with proof that the person lives in Michigan; Wayne State University doesn’t ask for citizenship documentation; and Saginaw Valley State University allows its president to approve waivers and allow migrant workers’ children to receive in-state tuition.

Javier Contreras, 18, was 4 years old, when his family came to the United States and settled in Ann Arbor. Javier recently graduated from Skyline High School on the honor roll. He had always dreamed of attending the University of Michigan and was overjoyed to learn he was accepted last year. Javier’s family has lived and paid taxes in Michigan for 14 years, yet because of his immigration status, U of M denied him in-state tuition. Javier for months has worked with the Coalition for Tuition Equality to lobby the University.

“I thank the Regents for their courageous decision,” wrote Javier in a blog for the ACLU. “It’s great to see them set such a great example and lead the way for more universities to follow in their footsteps. I know this policy will bring great minds in into the University of Michigan system and help it grow.”

In its March letter, the ACLU of Michigan encouraged the University to adopt an inclusive policy, stating: “Federal law does not bar the Board of Regents from granting a more affordable college education to undocumented students. Most importantly, by lowering the costs of pursuing a college degree, the Board will provide greater educational opportunities to a significant portion of the population, increase the quality of our nation’s future workforce, as well as ensure a vibrant and diverse U-M student body.”