In continuing the Assembly's commitment to ensuring every New Yorker is able to afford higher education, Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Francisco Moya today announced the passage of the New York State DREAM Act. The bill would create a DREAM fund to advance the educational opportunities of immigrant students, remove the financial obstacles to obtaining state financial aid for certain immigrant students and eliminate barriers for immigrants who wish to start a college tuition savings account (A.4311, Moya).
"For many New Yorkers, the dream of obtaining higher education would be impossible without years of saving and the help of state financial aid," said Speaker Heastie. "Therefore, denying aid to thousands of immigrant students that graduate from New York high schools every year means denying them access to the education they need to fully participate in and contribute to our economy."
"For many years, the Assembly has passed the DREAM Act because we realize the life changing effects it would have not only for these voiceless students, but for New York as a whole, "said Assemblymember Moya, sponsor of the bill. "Hundreds of thousands of students have been given a high school education here in New York and are unable to continue their education. Denying hard-working students the tools they need to be successful is an injustice and disservice to everyone."
"The future of New York State depends on the success of today's youth," said Assemblymember Glick, chair of the Committee on Higher Education. "By denying hardworking students access to higher education funding we are severely limiting the potential of a huge population of New York's brightest students. This bill is not only the right thing to do, it is the economically responsible thing to do."
Under the proposal, the Executive and the Legislature would appoint a commission whose members would raise money for the DREAM fund in order to provide scholarships to college bound children of immigrants. The commission would be required to establish criteria for the scholarships and neither the commission nor the fund would receive state funding or aid.
Currently, undocumented students are ineligible for general financial aid awards, performance based awards or New York State's Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). Under the proposal, these students would be eligible for such awards if they:
It is estimated that of the roughly 4,500 undocumented students that graduate from New York High Schools every year, only 5-10 percent are able to pursue a college education because of financial burden.
The bill would also support undocumented individuals who wish to save money for college. Under the proposal, an undocumented person with a taxpayer identification number would be able to open a family tuition account and benefit from the tax incentive provided for qualified state tuition programs under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO said "The DREAM Act is about giving the children of immigrants an opportunity to do better than their parents. It is about helping them realize the American Dream, providing a brighter future and more opportunities for all children in this state. It is about making sure immigrant youth are able to realize their full potential which will ultimately make our state even stronger; something we all benefit from."