Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Monday he's encouraged that some states are allowing the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public colleges.
As an example, Duncan pointed to Rhode Island, where this fall the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education unanimously approved in-state tuition for illegal immigrants starting in fall 2012.
Another dozen states have similar laws or policies, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In contrast, four states have laws specifically prohibiting illegal immigrant students from receiving in-state tuition, and two states bar those who are illegally in the country from attending public secondary schools altogether, the National Conference of State Legislatures said.
Duncan said some of the children of illegal immigrants came to the United States when they were infants. He said the United States is their home, where they've worked hard in school and taken on leadership roles. For too long, he said, the U.S. policy toward them has been backward.
"They are either going to be taxpayers and productive citizens and entrepreneurs and innovators or they are going to be on the sidelines and a drag on the economy," Duncan said in an interview with The Associated Press.