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What is the Pennsylvania DREAM Act?
The Pennsylvania DREAM Act, introduced by State Senator Lloyd Smucker on March 19th, 2013, is a tuition equity legislation. It would allow undocumented youth in Pennsylvania to pay in-state tuition rates at public institutions of higher education provided they meet certain requirements. If successful, Pennsylvania will become the 14th state to pass a state DREAM Act, joining states such as Illinois, Texas, and Maryland.
Who would qualify for the Pennsylvania DREAM Act?
Pennsylvania undocumented youth must meet certain requirements in order to qualify for the in-state tuition bill. The undocumented individual must have attended a public or nonpublic secondary school in the Commonwealth for two or more years and must have graduated from a Pennsylvania secondary school or obtained a GED certificate, starting with the 2007-2008 school year.
If the bill were to become law of the state, undocumented youth that meet all the requirements listed above must then register with an institution of higher education within 4 years after graduating from a nonpublic or public secondary school. The information of those that qualify for the Pennsylvania DREAM Act will be recorded while attending an establishment of higher education. The data collected will be submitted to the Department of Education.
Would the in-state tuition bill, encourage undocumented youth from other states to move to Pennsylvania?
Undocumented youth from other states would not qualify for the Pennsylvania DREAM Act. There are several requirements in order to be eligible for this bill, including graduating from a Pennsylvania High School.
However, the bill would provide much needed relief to the undocumented youth residing in the state of Pennsylvania who wish to go to college. These youth have attended and graduated from the state’s schools and deserve equal opportunity to achieve their dreams and goals of higher education.
Will the bill be a fiscal burden on the state and its budget?
Having a more educated workforce will only enrich and strengthen the state’s competitiveness. The in-state tuition bill would provide undocumented youth the opportunity to access higher education and as a result, would fortify equal academic achievement within the state. It is to the state’s best interest to have educated young people.
Will the bill harm the chances of U.S. citizens from attending public universities?
The in-state tuition bill would not harm the chances of U.S. citizens from attending public universities. This bill would only provide undocumented youth with the opportunity to achieve higher education by allowing them to pay at in-state rates. Furthermore, these youth have grown up in the United States and their only desire is to continue with their education in order to make their educational goals a reality. The state of Pennsylvania should see that all its residents are receiving adequate and equal access to a higher education regardless of immigration status.
Why should we provide in-state tuition for undocumented students?
It is to the state’s best interest that undocumented youth receive adequate education in order to have a strong and capable workforce in the state. Approximately 800 undocumented youth graduate from Pennsylvania’s high schools every year without the same opportunity as their classmates. Many undocumented youth come to realize of their immigration status when applying for college. Like their peers, undocumented youth have worked just as hard to succeed academically to only find out their immigration status limits their chances to an education.
Currently undocumented students are not considered to be Pennsylvanians when applying to colleges, although they have resided in Pennsylvania for years. Therefore, each student’s case is handled individually by institutions as they see fit. Several of these students have to pay out of state or international tuition rates. They do not have access to federal financial aid, making it nearly impossible for many to afford an education after High School. The Pennsylvania DREAM Act would provide a uniform policy to be administered by all institutions of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). According to a study by the National Immigration Law Center, in-state tuition bills that have been passed in other states show the significant rise in the percentage of college enrollment of undocumented students. The Pennsylvania DREAM Act will provide critical relief to undocumented youth pursuing higher education, while also allowing them to more fully contribute back to society socially and economically.
Why don’t these students get in line and become citizens?
Under current immigration law, it is not possible for the majority of these students to adjust their status and apply for permanent residency or citizenship. The Federal DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to legalization for undocumented youth brought to the United States as children, has been stalled in Congress for over a decade. The bill passed the House of Representatives during the December 2010 lame-duck session vote but fell five votes short of passage in the Senate. As a result of the bill’s failure, undocumented youth are not able to fix their immigration status. Passage of this Pennsylvania tuition equity bill would not only help the students who would qualify for the legislation, but it would also prove to be beneficial for the state of Pennsylvania.