May 21, 2013

Assembly Passes DREAM Act to Increase Access to College Aid Opportunities for Immigrant Students

Javascript is required to view the video...
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver held a news conference to announce legislative action on the DREAM Act. Silver, with members of the Assembly Majority and immigrant advocacy groups at his side, said the DREAM Act was about helping young people realize the American Dream through a college education and building a stronger workforce for the state economy.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver joined with Assemblyman Francisco Moya and Higher Education Committee Chair Deborah J. Glick to announce the Assembly's passage of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a comprehensive piece of legislation that would continue New York's advocacy of educational support for immigrant youth (A.2597). In addition to creating the DREAM Fund to provide private scholarships for these students, this bill would - for the first time - also allow immigrant students to apply for state financial aid.

"Passing the DREAM Act shows that the Assembly has taken another proud step forward in its continued dedication to increasing access to college aid for all immigrant students in our state," Silver said. "Immigration status is an unjustifiable barrier to denying these hardworking students the dream of a college education. The DREAM Act takes fundamental steps in righting these wrongs and brings this and future generations one step closer to the promise of freedom, equality and opportunity for everyone here in New York. Furthermore, by allowing thousands of students to pursue a college education they previously could not afford, the DREAM Act would have a positive economic impact on our state, as demand for a higher-skilled, college educated workforce continues to increase."

A study by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found that the demand for higher-skilled workers is increasing statewide. As of March 2013, the unemployment rate for people with only a high school diploma was twice as high compared to those with a bachelor's degree, especially in the downstate region. Additionally, the report found the average wage for workers with a bachelor's degree in the downstate region was 85 percent higher than those with only a high school diploma. Increased access to financial aid would likely increase the number of immigrant students to graduate high school and pursue a college education.

Silver said the Assembly's DREAM Act legislation is not about pitting citizens who were born here against those who were not or taking resources from one group and giving them to another but rather the Act is about opening the doors to higher education and self-fulfillment for all of our children.
This legislation would make New York one of only four states - including Texas, New Mexico and California - to offer state financial aid to immigrant students. Since 2002, New York has been just one of 13 states that ensure in-state tuition is available to children of immigrants. The DREAM Act goes a step further in increasing the availability of financial aid options for immigrant students, including a comprehensive list of state educational assistance programs, such as:

"Today's passage of the DREAM Act positively influences the dreams, careers and future achievements of thousands of young New Yorkers, and that the Assembly has had such an important part in making these opportunities available to so many students is something I truly take pride in," Moya said. "Removing some of the unjustifiable barriers to a quality education that so many immigrant students are up against is the right thing to do, plain and simple."

"We live in a progressive state that has, for hundreds of years, fought for equal treatment and equal access for everyone," Glick said. "On no day is that more true than today, as the passage of The DREAM Act reaffirms the Assembly's long-standing commitment to ensuring every New York student, regardless of immigration status, has access to a higher education. This legislation proudly opens doors to the thousands of young immigrant men and women whose dreams will shape our state's future successes and innovations."

This legislation would also create a DREAM Fund, a private scholarship program that would be committed to advancing the educational goals of the children of immigrants through privately-funded scholarships and increased access to the New York State College Tuition (529) Program through family tuition accounts. These family tuition accounts would be available to anyone who provides a valid taxpayer identification number. These accounts, which are similar to state-run programs in both California and Illinois, have been federally approved since 2002. Family tuition accounts would make it easier for New York's immigrant families to systematically and consistently put aside money and save for their children's futures.

The Speaker and his Assembly Colleagues were joined by DREAM Act supporters from across the state including represenatives from Make the Road New York, Hispanic Federation, New York Immigration Coalition, 23BJ-SEIU and NYPIRG.
The DREAM Fund would raise private funds in order to provide scholarships to college-bound students of at least one immigrant parent. The DREAM Fund commission would be comprised of 12 members that reflect the racial, ethnic, gender, language and geographic diversity of the state and would also include higher education administrators, faculty members and other advocates committed to advancing the educational opportunities of the children of immigrants.

Luba Cortes, member from Make the Road NY, said, "We gather here because we all believe in the future of NY; this future can only be achieved if we provide an education to all of our youth regardless of a status. I thank the Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver and Assemblyman Francisco Moya for their leadership in making sure the NY DREAM Act passes in the Assembly. As a dreamer from Long Island this is the light at the end of the tunnel that I need in order to go to college and continue my education."

Jose Calderon, President of the Hispanic Federation said, "We thank Speaker Sheldon Silver, Assemblyman Francisco Moya and their colleagues for moving decisively to pass the NYS DREAM Act. We now look to the Senate and Governor to follow suit and pass legislation this year opening up the Tuition Assistance Program to all immigrant youth attending New York high schools."

Kevin Stump, NYPIRG's Higher Education Advocate said, "Today New York is one step closer to living up to its true progressive self. Now it's up to the senate to pass the NY DREAM Act to ensure that all of New York's children have access to college through the Tuition Assistance Program."

Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition said, "New York leaders have done us proud. Kudos to Speaker Silver and the Assembly for passing the New York DREAM Act. And a huge thanks to Chancellor Tisch, the Board of Regents, the State Department of Education, Mayor Bloomberg, CUNY, SUNY, and others for their strong support and championing of this legislation. Now it's the Senate's turn, and we look toward Senators Klein and Skelos and to Governor Cuomo to step up and do what is right: help realize young peoples' dreams, don't squander this opportunity and pass the New York DREAM Act now."

Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU, said, "I want to thank Speaker Silver and all the advocates and lawmakers who made possible the passage of a State DREAM Act in the Assembly. This legislation will lower the financial barriers to getting a quality education for the at least 8,300 undocumented students in New York. Attending college will prepare them to find good jobs with decent pay and benefits and lift themselves and their families into the middle class. We urge the Senate to pass this legislation and get it to Gov. Cuomo for his signature."