NEW YORK—Immigrant students and community groups rallied in Midtown Monday, calling for Gov. Cuomo to include the New York State Dream Act in the 2014 state budget. The bill, if passed, will allow all students, including those with undocumented status, to receive state financial aid.
“Every year, 5,000 immigrant youth graduate from New York’s high schools and are ready to go onto higher education but cannot do so because they face crushing student debt burdens and other barriers,” said Steven Choi, executive director of New York Immigration Coalition.
Currently 146,000 immigrant youth who have been educated in New York public schools are ineligible to receive federal or state financial aid. The NYS Dream Act will open New York’s Tuition Assistance Program to all students regardless of their immigration status, including those who are undocumented.
In 2002, New York passed legislation allowing undocumented students who graduated from a high school in New York to pay in-state tuition rates at public universities, but the students said that it is not enough to cover the costs.
“Many of us are working many jobs so that we can pay at least a semester of college and we continue to do it until we finish college and I’ve been doing that even before I started college,” said Irma Cruz, an undocumented student at the College of Staten Island.
The New York Assembly has already passed the Dream Act to increase access to college aid access for immigrant students. However, Gov. Cuomo has remained quiet on the issue. Since state financial assistance is funded by taxpayer money, opening it to thousands of additional students is undoubtedly expensive. A total of 16 states currently allow in-state tuition rates for undocumented students, but only Texas, New Mexico, and California allow undocumented students to receive state financial aid.
Supporters of the Dream Act urged New York to follow in the footsteps of those three states.
“The time is now to pass the New York State Dream Act and we will not stop until that becomes a reality in 2014,” said Choi.
The deadline for the 2014 budget proposal is due on April 1.
Yi Yang is a special correspondent in New York.