BOSTON (SHNS) – Gov. Maura Healey doubled down Tuesday on her support for extending access to lower in-state tuition rates to Massachusetts high school graduates without legal immigration status, praising the proposal as “absolutely essential and a no-brainer.”

After initially offering the proposal a warm reception, Healey more fully embraced the idea during a WBUR interview on Tuesday. She described it as a matter of fairness and a way to mitigate the workforce challenges straining employers. Many of the students who would gain eligibility to attend public colleges and universities at in-state rates — which can be several thousand dollars less per year than the out-of-state cost — have “lived here essentially all of their lives,” Healey said.

“We have some folks who have come to Massachusetts from another country when they were 10 months old or they were 3 years old, 5 years old,” Healey said on “Radio Boston.” “They’ve gone through all of their education, K to 12, right? But now when it comes to going to college or thinking about college, they’re not eligible for in-state tuition even though they’ve lived here, worked here.” “I think this makes a lot of sense, and it certainly is a way to help with our workforce needs as well, so I strongly support it,” she added.

Senate Democrats wove the policy into their Ways and Means Committee’s fiscal 2024 state budget, which is marked for debate next week. House Speaker Ron Mariano joined a majority of the House 17 years ago to defeat a similar proposal, and has declined to say since last week’s Senate budget release if his position has changed.

Twenty-three other states have laws in place allowing undocumented immigrants to access in-state tuition, and 18 of them also allow those students to access state financial aid as would the Senate plan, according to Senate President Karen Spilka’s office.