(CNN) -- At Thursday night's presidential debate in Orlando, Florida, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney hit Texas Gov. Rick Perry hard on the issue of immigration, characterizing his policies as encouraging illegal immigration. He specifically criticized Perry's support for a Texas law that allows children of illegal immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities, likening it to a $100,00 educational discount. Perry defended the state policy as important for integrating future generations into the economic mainstream and said it's "heartless" to deny the children of illegal immigrants a chance at in-state tuition rates.
"I gotta be honest with you. I don't see how it is that a state like Texas ... to go the the University of Texas, if you are an illegal alien, you get an in-state tuition discount. That's $22,000 a year. Four years of college. Four years of college, almost $100,000 discount if you are an illegal alien (to) go to the University of Texas.
-- former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts
According to the Web site http://collegeforalltexans.com, which helps estimate tuition costs for students at various public schools in Texas, it would cost about $24,700 a year for a resident of Texas, whether a legal U.S. citizen or not, to attend the University of Texas at Austin. The figure includes tuition, fees, room and board and other incidental expenses. For an out-of-state student, and that includes legal U.S. residents, that figure climbs to about $47,400 a year.
With the same variable in play except for in-state or out-of-state status, the difference is about $22,700. Added up over a four-year college career with the same rates, that's almost $91,800 a year.
However, Texas is not the only state that allows illegal immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition. California, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin allow illegal residents to qualify for in-state tuition. Another dozen states have passed specific laws refusing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.
The verdict: True, but incomplete.
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CNN's Forrest Brown and Amy Roberts contributed to this report.