Thiele Helps Assembly Pass DREAM Act to Expand College Aid Opportunities to Immigrant Students

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I, D, WF-Sag Harbor) announced he helped the Assembly pass the New York State Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act (A.2597). In addition to creating a private scholarship fund (the DREAM Fund), this comprehensive legislation would, for the first time ever, allow immigrant students to apply for state scholarships and the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) to help them pay for their higher education.

“By increasing financial aid opportunities for immigrant students, the DREAM Act takes monumental steps forward in making sure all students in New York State can obtain a college education,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “The Assembly has a long legacy of championing equal educational opportunities, and as the immigration debate comes to the forefront of the national spotlight, New York must once again take the lead on this important issue.”

Since 2002, undocumented immigrants have been allowed to pay in-state tuition rates at SUNY and CUNY colleges and universities. The DREAM Act goes a step further by increasing access for undocumented youth to a broad range of state educational assistance programs, including:

  • Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP);
  • Educational Opportunity Program (EOP);
  • Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (C-STEP); and
  • opportunity programs available at community colleges.

The passage of the DREAM Act would make New York one of four states – including Texas, New Mexico and California – to offer state financial assistance to children of undocumented immigrants.

“New York State – with its long, proud history of eliminating barriers – should lead the way,” Thiele said. “Immigration status is an unjustifiable barrier that, for far too long, has kept young, motivated immigrant students from growing, learning and achieving their dreams.”

The bill would require undocumented immigrant students to satisfy certain conditions to be eligible for state tuition assistance and educational opportunity programs, including having attended high school in New York State for at least two years and having graduated or received an equivalency certificate in-state.

“The logic behind this legislation is simple: Anyone, regardless of immigration status, who has worked hard and lived by the rules, deserves an equal chance to obtain a quality college education,” Thiele said. “It’s not a question of taking resources from one group and giving them to another – it’s about equal educational access for all our kids.”

In addition to increasing access to state aid, the DREAM Act sets up the DREAM Fund, an initiative that would raise private funds to provide scholarships for eligible college-bound children with at least one immigrant parent. The DREAM Act would also expand access to the New York State College Tuition Savings (529) Program through family tuition accounts. The family tuition accounts would be available to anyone who provides a valid taxpayer identification number, and would significantly help families save for their children’s future over an extended period of time, noted Thiele.

“Not only does the DREAM Act ease the skyrocketing costs of higher education, it also gives every immigrant child in our state the opportunity to have a bright and successful future,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “Our State has always been a champion of equal access to higher education. I urge the Senate and governor to help make these students’ dreams a reality.”