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A Mizzou Education Now Costs $100,000 For Undocumented Immigrants

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For a small group of high school seniors in the metro, their college options are narrowing because of a law passed last year in Jefferson City. 

Once-affordable options like Metropolitan Community College now seem like iffy bets. UMKC and Northwest Missouri State are a stretch. Mizzou? Forget about it.  

On Wednesday, KCUR reported on a group of undocumented high school seniors from Kansas City's Alta Vista Charter High School who recently traveled to Omaha's College of St. Mary in the hopes of landing what amounts to a full-ride scholarship. 

Their teacher compared it to a "lottery". 

The stakes were so high for them because last summer the state passed a law requiring Missouri public colleges and universities to charge undocumented students out-of-state tuition rates. 

In particular, the law targets students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, status, which three of the Alta Vista students have. But all undocumented students in the state, regardless of their immigration status, must now pay non-resident, or out-of-state, tuition.

How much of an effect does this have? 

A very big one, according to the Alta Vista students. The tuition hikes mandated by the law, they say, will make it hard for their families to pay for them to go to school locally without substantial financial aid or scholarships.

Their adviser at Alta Vista says these students have the grades and test scores to be competitive at most local schools. One girl, in fact, interviewed at Yale University.

So, the law hasn't stopped them from applying to these schools, but they all acknowledge that the cost will, in most cases, stop them from going. Here's a quick comparison of how the law changes the tuition rates for these students: 

  • UMKC, In-state: $4,776/semester; Out-of-state: $11,357/semester
  • Northwest Missouri State, In-state: $3,947/semester; Out-of-state: $6,896/semester
  • Metropolitan Community College, In-state: $1,425/semester; Out-of-state: $3,435/semester
  • Mizzou, In-state: $5,293/semester; Out-of-state: $12,599/semester

A four-year degree at the University of Missouri would cost these students more than $100,000 just in tuition. That's a price tag far beyond the realm of affordability for them, making the state's flagship campus, for all intents and purposes, a fantasy for these students who have called Missouri home for much of their lives.
But less dramatic hikes at MCC and Northwest are also proving prohibitive. One of the college applicants says she stopped considering Northwest after the law change. Another student says if she does not get the scholarship at the College of St. Mary, then she will most likely attend Johnson County Community College, where out-of-state tuition is slightly cheaper than the rate she'd pay as a 'non-resident' at MCC.  

Kyle Palmer is KCUR's morning newscaster and a reporter. You can follow him @kcurkyle. 

Kyle Palmer is the editor of the Shawnee Mission Post, a digital news outlet serving Northeast Johnson County, Kansas. He previously served as KCUR's news director and morning newscaster.
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