DREAM Act Won’t Affect US Citizens in Universities

President Obama has been trying to pass the Dream Act (Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) for some time, despite opposition from Republicans and Congress. If passed, the legislation would offer legal status to children of undocumented immigrants and provide them with a path to a US education and green cards. While the federal law has not been passed, some states (including Maryland and California) have passed versions of the laws, that offer, among other things, in-state tuition to children of undocumented immigrants.

These state laws have created a great deal of controversy, especially at a time when a college education is becoming more expensive for everyone. Some critics of Maryland state laws, for example, have opined that allowing children of undocumented immigrants to attend colleges at in-state rates would eliminate spots for US citizens and permanent residents. However, according to a study published by the University of Maryland, this is not the case.

Professors Marvin Mandell and Thomas Gindling of the Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research have written “Private and Government Fiscal Costs and Benefits of the Maryland Dream Act,” a study that examines the actual impact of the Maryland Dream Act. According to the study, the Dream Act does not crowd out US students and citizens from colleges. The Dream Act in the state does require undocumented immigrants to attend community college for at least two years before applying for a four-year college program. This means that the number of undocumented immigrants in four-year colleges is quite low and according to the study only about 102 undocumented immigrants a year transfer from community college to a four-year college – a low number. This goes against the claims of groups such as Help Save Maryland, who argue that undocumented immigrants crowd out other students.

Professors Marvin Mandell and Thomas Gindling did find that the Dream Act would cost state universities some money, as students would no longer have to pay out-of-state tuition if they were undocumented immigrants. Subsidies from the government would not cover this decline of $1.8 million. However, Mandell and Gindling were quick to note in their study that the Dream Act in the state would create a $66 million economic benefit for each class of students – more than enough to make up for the loss of out-of-state tuition. According to the study, the total economic benefit of the Dream Act may be even higher, as the $66 million cannot take into account the total, long-term effects of a more educated population.

The director of the Help Save Maryland group does not agree with the findings. According to the group, the study estimates the number of students who take advantage of the Dream Act to be 435. However, Help Save Maryland predicts that the number is closer to 1000. Help Save Maryland also notes that Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the university where the report was founded, is a supporter of the Dream Act. Help Save Maryland and other critics of the Dream Act are concerned that the legislation will lead to other changes – such as offering financial aid to undocumented immigrants.