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Pennsylvania DREAM Act Could Finally Make In-State Tuition A Reality For Undocumented Students

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Undocumented students across Pennsylvania might have a chance of benefiting from in-state tuition at state colleges and universities.

State Senator Lloyd Smucker  (R – 13 District) is the main sponsor of SB 760, otherwise known as the Pennsylvania Dream Act, a bill that would grant in-state tuition for undocumented students.

In a recent statement, Senator Smucker detailed his inspiration for the bill:

I introduced legislation based on the Maryland Dream Act, which provides undocumented students the opportunity to continue their education.  The Maryland legislature approved this measure in 2011 and then it upheld overwhelmingly in a ballot referendum in the November 2012 election.

Under this proposal, eligible individuals must offer proof of having attended at least two years of high school and must meet all Commonwealth residency requirements for financial aid.  If admitted to college, the students would then be charged the lower in-state tuition rate.

If enacted, Pennsylvania would join Arizona and Florida — two of the most recent states to offer in-state tuition to undocumented students — along with other states who have also implemented similar legislation.

In addition, should it be enacted, SB 760 would allow undocumented student in Pennsylvania to benefit from financial aid — a privilege that is not often afforded to undocumented students, even in those states that have enacted in-state tuition legislation.

In order to qualify for the Pennsylvania Dream Act, students would have to meet the following requirements:

  • Students must have attended a public or private high school in the State of Pennsylvania for 2 consecutive years. Students must have been enrolled since the 2007 school year.
  • Students must have completed and obtained their high school diploma, or received an equivalent, as of the 2009-2010 school year.
  • In addition, students must “provide to the public institution of higher education an affidavit stating that the individual will file an application to become a permanent resident within 30 days after the individual becomes eligible to do so.”
  • Finally, students must have enrolled within a “public institution of higher education in [Pennsylvania] not earlier than the 2013 fall semester.”

A powerful story from a potential beneficiary of this bill was published in the LancasterOnline, who writes:

For every story like mine, there are hundreds of others in our state whose potential is cut short every year by discriminatory tuition policies. The Pennsylvania DREAM Act, introduced by Sen. Lloyd Smucker, a Republican from Lancaster County, would make higher education more affordable for qualified undocumented Pennsylvanians by making them eligible to pay in-state tuition, and by allowing them to apply for state financial aid.

My family immigrated to the United States in pursuit of opportunities denied to us in the Dominican Republic. After our visas expired, we joined the ranks of the undocumented, living under a constant fear of deportation with little control over our futures.

Arriving in the sixth grade not knowing English, I worked hard to learn the language and to excel academically. I also became a student leader, serving as president of the student council and several other groups. I graduated from Hempfield High School at the top of my class with a long resume of awards, leadership experiences and volunteer hours. Still, a pile of college rejection letters was all I had to show for my efforts.

We will update this story with more information about SB760, along with its progress.