By Juventino Meza, May guest blogger
Gov. Mark Dayton will sign the Higher Education Omnibus bill that included the Minnesota Dream Act. This is a historic day for Minnesota. It took more than a decade to pass this legislation; we are the 15th state to do so and only the 4th one to provide state financial aid.
The Minnesota Dream Act will:
- Allow students to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities if they meet certain requirements, regardless of their immigration status
- Make state higher education aid available to all students who meet residency requirements, regardless of immigration status
- Allow public institutions (MnSCU and the University of Minnesota) to use private funding as financial aid for all students, regardless of immigration status
- Create a Minnesota financial aid application specifically for these students that delinks federal and state financial aid.
The Minnesota Dream Act has broad support. The Citizens League supported it based on its 2009 study of immigrant students' access to higher education in Minnesota. The bill was also backed by community groups (Mesa Latina, Centro Campesino, Chicano Latino Affairs Council), all major higher education institutions (U of MN, Minnesota Private College Council, MnSCU), business and labor groups (Education Minnesota, Chamber of Commerce, SEIU Local 26, Agri-Growth Council), superintendents around the state, Republicans and Democrats, rural and urban. And obviously, Gov. Dayton and Larry Pogemiller, director of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, supported it as well. This truly was a collaborative victory for Minnesota!
I went to ask the authors what they thought. “I am thrilled that after a decade of effort by immigrant students and their allies, their ‘dream of a college education’ became law when Gov. Dayton signs it, said Sen. Sandy Pappas. “I look forward to the talents and energies of these bright young people serving the economic future of our great state.”
It’s estimated that if 500 students benefit, it will “bring $1 billion in new earnings to the Minnesota economy over their lifetime. ($1.8 million is the lifetime earnings of an associate degree; $2.4 million for a bachelor’s degree).”
This legislation is about equity, but it also is about closing the opportunity and achievement gap. It will ensure that all students in Minnesota have equal access to higher education and that Minnesota is ready to compete in the world economy with the future workforce we will need.
“It’s an honor being part of this historic legislative proposal,” said Representative Carlos Mariani, who sponsored the legislation in the House. “I have been fighting for this for more than 10 years. This affirms the dignity of undocumented people in Minnesota. Congratulations to everyone who faithfully and strategically worked to make this law. DREAMers inspire us to be a better people. On-forward!”
Marco Loera, a soon-to-be college student from Rochester, Minn. was equally enthusiastic. “I can finally see my future; I can finally say that equality for all Minnesota students is closer now. This is my state and these are my dreams; now, no status will keep me from being the best I can be.”
Find information about the process here. We know that we have a lot of work ahead, especially in high schools and colleges to make sure everyone has the right information. Can you help us spread the word? Organize a group of students, families or staff and invite NAVIGATE MN to do a presentation about how students can benefit from the Minnesota Dream Act.