In a letter sent Monday to the Board of Higher Education, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said undocumented immigrants who have obtained a work permit through the Deferred Action program are now eligible to pay in-state tuition in the state's public colleges and universities. The decision will cut tuition fees by about 50 percent for undocumented students attending state colleges. For example, the state's flagship college, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, charges state residents $13,230 in tuition and fees; students from outside the state pay more than twice as much, $26,645. The state's flagship college, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, charges state residents $13,230 in tuition and fees; students from outside the state pay more than twice as much, $26,645. "Our experience has been that the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition is a prohibitive barrier," Paul Reville, the state's secretary of education, [told the NY Times.](http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/20/us/illegal-immigrants-to-pay-in-state-...) "It's a step in the right direction but it's not a substitute for comprehensive immigration reform, we still need that," Patrick told reporters on Monday, [according to the Associated Press. ](http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-11-20/mass-dot-offers-tuition-break-...) Massachusetts officials estimate the state has 15,000 to 17,000 residents in the age group affected by the change in the deportation policy, according to the New York Times. Officials would not guess how many might take advantage of new state and federal rules. Massachusetts Treasurer Steven Grossman told the AP that immigrants would not take the spots of legal residents in the state's schools. "No place at one of our public colleges and universities will be denied to any other child or student," Grossman said. This week's decision comes after a [2004 attempt by the Massachusetts state Legislature](http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2012/11/19/state-widen-tu...) to pass a bill allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition. Then-Governor Mitt Romney vetoed the measure, and subsequent efforts failed. Currently, 12 states have laws allowing undocumented students who meet specific requirements to receive in-state tuition rates at public postsecondary institutions, according to the[ National Conference of State Legislatures.](www.ncsl.org/issues-research/educ/undocumented-student-tuition-state-act...) Earlier this month, Maryland became the first to adopt such a law by popular vote.