To the Editor:
The Maryland In-State Tuition law, also known as the Maryland Dream Act, was signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley in 2011.
This year the law is being challenged with a ballot referendum. The measure will appear on the Nov. 6 statewide ballot as veto referendum Question 4, and voters will decide whether the law will be upheld.
This law is not an immigration reform bill, but rather an effort to make higher education more attainable for all residents of the state. The law allows Maryland students, including undocumented immigrants, to pay affordable in-state college tuition rates.
To qualify for in-state tuition rates a student must meet certain specified conditions. They must have attended a Maryland high school for at least three years and received a diploma. They, or their family, must have filed state income taxes for three years and the student must continue to pay taxes every year while in college.
They must demonstrate intent to apply for permanent residency and, if required, must register with the selective service system.
Qualifying students must first attend a Maryland community college for two years before being eligible to transfer to a Maryland four-year college or university.
The law does not automatically guarantee acceptance to a college, it only applies to the payment of in-state tuition rates. Acceptance must be earned by each student based on merit.
The primary purpose of the Maryland Dream Act is to offer fair treatment to undocumented immigrant children who came here at a young age. America is their home and most often is the only country they have ever known.
The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that undocumented immigrant children should have access to public education through grade 12. But upon graduating from high school they are treated differently than their classmates.
For most of them, a college education is unattainable because they are ineligible for scholarships or other financial aid and cannot afford high tuition rates.
Expanding educational opportunity to all high school graduates is beneficial to all of us from a broader perspective. We profit both economically and socially from higher education.
Maryland needs a more educated work force. We continue to face shortages in key areas such as teaching, nursing, other medical support professions, and middle-skills jobs that require a college degree.
The vast majority of immigrant students who qualify under the Dream Act are bilingual and driven, and have demonstrated a strong work ethic by holding nighttime or weekend jobs while in high school.
Enabling these aspiring professionals to go to college will help to fill the statewide shortages in their fields of interest.
Investing in higher education helps reduce public spending on social programs and increases state tax revenues.
This has been the case in Texas, which became the first state to enact a Dream Act legislation when it was signed into law by Gov. Perry. In Texas they have found that every dollar invested in higher education has yielded more than five dollars in the long run for the state’s economy.
The Allegany County Branch NAACP strongly supports the Maryland Dream Act. We urge voters to cast their ballot in favor of upholding the Maryland In-State Tuition law on referendum Question 4 in this year’s election.
America is the land of opportunity. How then can we deny a student who has achieved academic excellence an opportunity to pursue their dreams solely because of the actions of their parents? We cannot — that is not who we are.
Joy Kroeger-Mappes, education chair
Richard W. Jones, communications chair
Allegany County Branch, NAACP