This past January, State Senators Martin Looney (D-11) and Donald Williams (D-11), as well as State Representative Juan Candelaria (D-95), introduced the Connecticut DREAM Act, a bill that would allow all Connecticut students to pay in-state tuition for Connecticut universities, regardless of their immigration status.
This makes a real difference for students: the University of Connecticut charges in-state tuition of around $8,000, while out-of-state tuition is over $24,000. Costly tuition prevents many undocumented students from attending college, especially since they cannot qualify for any federal or state tuition assistance.
This bill is a sensible step forward for immigration reform. According to the National Immigration Law Center, about 65,000 undocumented, US-raised students who would qualify for in-state tuition graduate from high school each year. These include hundreds of New Haven students, and thousands across the state. They are valedictorians, varsity athletes and student council presidents. Children who were illegally brought to America by their parents should not be penalized for decisions that were outside of their control. They study and work alongside their fellow students as equal partners in the classroom. They too deserve the opportunity to realize the benefits of their hard work.
Eleven other states across the country — both red and blue — have already recognized these benefits and have passed their own in-state tuition bills into law. California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin have all enacted this important piece of legislation. It’s time Connecticut does the same.
Here in Connecticut, a similar bill was passed in 2007 by both the state Senate and House only to be vetoed by then-Governor Rell. Our current governor, Dan Malloy, recently indicated his support for the bill. Just a few weeks ago, the New Haven Education and Human Services Committees unanimously recommended the Board of Aldermen approve a resolution supporting this bill. New Haven Mayor DeStefano has also expressed his support.
The passage of the Connecticut DREAM Act would also work to sustain New Haven Promise, a key component of the city’s innovative education reform efforts. By paying up to full tuition for New Haven students who maintain a 3.0 GPA and perform 40 hours of community service throughout high school, New Haven Promise will ensure that a college degree is a realizable goal for every New Haven graduate. As the program is open to all city residents, the Promise program will be forced to pay out of state tuition rates for the city’s undocumented students in the absence of an in-state tuition bill. By passing this bill, we can ensure the long-term sustainability of the program and make good on the promise made to all of the city’s students.
Fiscally, this bill makes sense. Passing the Connecticut DREAM Act would enable a group of motivated students to contribute to our society in ways they cannot today. As Senator Looney put it, “Connecticut’s economic future depends on having a highly capable, educated workforce.” The bill would unlock the talent of these students to contribute to communities right here in Connecticut. Moreover, according to the Office of Fiscal Analysis, the bill would result in a potential revenue gain for most Connecticut colleges. The students who would benefit from this bill have been raised and educated here, and local taxpayers have already invested in their education. This bill would generate a return on that investment.
This bill is not about amnesty. This bill is a practical, fiscally responsible, and socially just way to enable motivated students to attend college. Though the federal DREAM Act was filibustered by Senate Republicans in the lame-duck session, we will continue to fight both nationally and locally for this important cause. Undocumented students in high school now cannot wait for the federal government to act first, and neither can we.
The Yale College Democrats and our allies across the state will continue to fight for the passage of the Connecticut DREAM Act. This Saturday we will be joined by students and members of local community groups for a rally at City Hall. On March 2, the Dems will go to Hartford to lobby state legislators for passage of this bill. We invite you to join us in our efforts.
We have a duty to fight for the rights of our fellow students, young adults who have put their futures on hold because they cannot attend college. It’s time we turned their dreams into a reality.
Josh Rubin, Nicole Hobbs and Adin Lykken are freshmen in Davenport, Ezra Stiles, and Calhoun Colleges, respectively. They are Yale College Democrats board members.
Correction: February 24, 2011
An earlier version of this article misspelled the last name of Adin Lykken.