Higher Education Leaders Recognize Significant Harm to Immigrant Families Resulting From USCIS’ Final Public Charge Rule

Washington, D.C.—Yesterday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration and Services (USCIS) issued its final public charge regulation, which is scheduled for publication tomorrow, August 14th. The new rule will undermine the success of immigrant and international students and their families and negatively impact higher education institutions, according to the Presidents’ Alliance for Higher Education and Immigration and the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education. We are deeply disappointed that despite the strong concerns raised in thousands of comments, including those submitted by our two organizations and numerous higher education institutions, the final regulation still ignores the extensive evidence that demonstrated the significant, adverse impacts that the rule will have on immigrant families, including U.S. citizen children of immigrants, as well as entire communities and our nation.

The final regulation will penalize low-income immigrants, who receive “one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months, in the aggregate, within any 36-month period,” including any cash benefits for income maintenance, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), most forms of Medicaid, and certain housing programs. Critically, the public charge regulation would jeopardize the ability of millions of noncitizens to obtain green cards. Regardless of some additional clarification, the rule will also chill the use of critically needed benefits by U.S. citizens, their families, and others eligible for assistance.

Furthermore, despite the extensive research showing the benefits of immigrants to our country and the critical role of postsecondary education in boosting upward mobility and helping the economy, this public charge regulation will deter immigrant youth and adult learners from enrolling in higher education and workforce training programs and will significantly harm the U.S. society and economy.

Teresita B. Wisell, Executive Director, Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education, stated: “The regulation will disproportionately affect community college students, as one third of community college students have family incomes of less than $20,000. The rule will not only undermine the ability of students and their families to succeed at our nation’s community colleges—which our nation universally acknowledges as a critical pipeline to the workforce and further education—but discourages individuals from accessing the services for which they are otherwise eligible. A hungry student is a student who cannot study, cannot focus on her studies, and whose success is uncertain. This regulation deprives immigrant students and their families from accessing the services needed to be healthy and productive contributors to our communities and country.”

Miriam Feldblum, Executive Director, Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, stated: “The government’s public charge regulation is an ill-conceived measure that will undermine the ability of higher education to contribute to our nation’s economic engine, shrink the tax base, and discourage future immigrant entrepreneurs and innovators from coming to our country. Our colleges and universities must remain open and competitive to immigrant and international students. This policy will increase the barriers for immigrant students seeking to pursue higher education, and deter others from utilizing our nation’s immigration channels to come and contribute to our nation. The Alliance will support all efforts to rescind this regulation and restore our nation’s commitment to immigrant students and their families.

The non-partisan Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration brings together college and university leaders dedicated to increasing public understanding of how immigration policies and practices impact our students, campuses and communities, and supporting policies that create a welcoming environment for undocumented, immigrant, and international students. The Alliance is comprised of over 430 presidents and chancellors of public and private colleges and universities, serving over four million students in 41 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

The Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education (CCCIE) is a national network of community colleges and other professional organizations committed to increasing educational and career opportunities for immigrant and refugee students. CCCIE builds the capacity of community colleges to accelerate immigrant and refugee success and raises awareness of the essential role these colleges play in advancing immigrant integration through education. CCCIE’s work is guided by a Blue Ribbon Panel of community college leaders, representing over 50 colleges serving an estimated 1.2 million students.

Download the PDF Statement Here.

Below we provide some additional preliminary information on the final ruling, including the timeline, who it impacts, and next steps.



Public Charge FAQs

When does the public charge rule go into effect?
60 days after it is published. It is scheduled to be published on Wednesday, August 14, and likely will go into effect October 15th. Legal challenges to the rule may impede its implementation. The public charge rule is not retroactive.
Who is impacted by the public charge rule? 
The public charge test applies to immigrants who are applying for admission or adjustment of status. The public charge rule does not apply to those who are already lawful permanent residents (LPRs also known as Green Card holders). It also does not apply to asylees or refugees, U.S. citizen children or other U.S. citizen family members. Further, it should be noted that the public charge rule does not apply to undocumented immigrants who are not eligible for the public benefits.
Educational benefits: The final rule reaffirms that educational benefits, including Pell grants and federal financial aid, are not included under the public charge rule.
The final rule also specifies some exemptions to the applicability of the public charge rule, including the use of Medicaid benefits for children under 21 and pregnant women.
What is the impact on international students?
DHS offers some clarifications, noting that foreign students and exchange visitors applying for a nonimmigrant visa already must demonstrate to the Department of State that “he or she is not likely at any time in the future to become a public charge,” noting that in order to obtain a visa, foreign students must show that they have the “financial resources to pay for coursework and living expenses” and that they have “sufficient funds to study in the United States (p. 153).” However, the final rule does set a new condition for the approval of stay and change of status applications that individuals must show that they have not received one or more public benefits as defined in the rule for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.
Bottom line:
Even populations that are not directly affected by the public charge test are impacted. Recent research has confirmed that the fear, confusion and uncertainty created by the new rule has resulted in chilling effects, with those who would otherwise be eligible for benefits dropping out of programs, such as SNAP.  Overall, those in immigrant families (regardless of their immigration or citizenship status) have increasingly avoided participation in a variety of support programs, including public benefits.  More analysis needs to be done to fully understand the rule’s impact on foreign students and visitors, though as with the chilling effects on other populations, the impacts on foreign students and visitors also arise through the uncertainty and confusion created by the rule.
Next Steps: CCCIE and Presidents’ Alliance will be providing additional FAQs and resources from the PIF campaign to share with campus staff to help them support students and families and with campus populations so as to help reduce confusion and uncertainty.