When President Obama announced his relief plan for DREAM Act-eligible youth last month, the move was applauded as a highly necessary development in the fight to give relief to undocumented youth in the only country they call home.
One important thing Obama’s DREAM relief could not include, however, was any mechanism to help DREAMers pay their way through college. That remains up to the individual states: While many states allow DREAMers to pay in state tuition rates, others treat them as foreign residents and force them to pay out-of-state tuition rates — an amount that can be two to four times as much. Furthermore, DREAMers do not qualify for Pell Grants or other forms of federal financial aid, meaning that finding a way to afford college has long been a serious problem for many DREAMers.
Maryland, last year, did the right thing for its undocumented youth by passing an in-state tuition bill—which, unfortunately, is now being challenged in a voter referendum scheduled for this fall. If the referendum succeeds, the in-state tuition bill will be wiped from the books and hundreds of undocumented youth will be denied an opportunity to pursue an education because they simply won’t be able to afford it. That’s why groups like Educating Maryland are fighting hard to defeat the referendum and allow the in-state tuition bill to go through.
The Washington Post recently published a great op-ed from Anthony Brown, lieutenant governor of Maryland and one of the in state tuition bill’s proponents. He lists the reasons Maryland needs to provide more opportunities — not less — to its young students:
The president’s announcement was a welcome and long overdue step, but it is by no means a comprehensive solution. In fact, with these young people now legally eligible to work, we need action at the state level more than ever to ensure that they can maximize their contributions to our economy. That means providing them with fair access to a higher education by allowing them to pay the same in-state college tuition rates as their high school classmates…
Maryland needs the Dream Act because success is not a zero-sum game. The reality is that in cities and towns throughout Maryland, each of us is strengthened when all of us succeed, and we all suffer when members of our communities are kept from reaching their potential. Our state is strong because we embrace diversity and innovation, and because we believe in investing in education for all of Maryland’s children.
The president’s implementation of a deferred-action immigration policy means that many undocumented young immigrants are going to remain an integral part of our communities. Denying these hardworking young Marylanders a fair shot at an affordable education will hurt our state’s future.
If Maryland is going to be economically competitive going forward, we need to give all of our students the same opportunity to become educated, successful members of our workforce. By supporting the Dream Act, we can continue to work toward a brighter future for all Marylanders.