By Juventino Meza, May guest blogger
Note: The MN Senate passed SF723 May 1 in a bipartisan basis, 41-23. Now it will be amended into the Higher Education Omnibus bill in Conference Committee, and then head for a final vote on both chambers. Gov. Mark Dayton has signaled that he will sign it.
When it comes to Minnesota, there are many things we should brag about: a lot of lakes, great businesses and great educational institutions are among them.
A few things we should not brag about: our embarrassing achievement and opportunity gaps, along with our future forecast of high numbers of retirees and too few workers with the educational qualifications our state needs. It’s actually kind of scary because all of this will impact how we do policy around education, health care, taxes and other issues for decades to come.
Here’s a small piece we can do today to address some of our future issues: pass the Minnesota Prosperity/Dream Act (SF723/HF875). Senator Sandy Pappas and Representative Carlos Mariani, along with 35 bipartisan co-authors introduced this bill to recognize certain undocumented youth as Minnesota residents for the purposes of eligibility for state financial aid and in-state tuition if they:
- Have gone to a Minnesota high school for 3 years;
- Receive their diploma or equivalent;
- File an affidavit with the respective college/university saying they will apply to change their immigration status as soon as they are able.
According to a study on state-based Dream Acts around the nation:
- In-state tuition results in a 31% increase in non-citizen enrollment in institutes of higher education.
- In-state tuition is correlated with a 14% decrease in high school dropouts among non-citizen Latinos.
- The benefits associated with in-state tuition do not appear to come at a financial cost to the U.S. taxpayer.
This is only based on in-state tuition; imagine the numbers if we equalize our financial aid for all Minnesota graduates.
Minnesota should be at the forefront of exploring and developing mechanisms that allow immigrant students to access and finance higher education that will keep more students in school, allow them to graduate from high school or obtain their GED, and attend and finish college in Minnesota (and subsequently live and work in Minnesota).
Even with federal immigration reform, Minnesota has to pass the Minnesota Prosperity Act
Like many other proposals, this bill has stalled in the House of Representatives in part due to leadership focusing on the U of M and MnSCU and confusion about it being a “federal issue.” However, if you look at the merits of the bill, it’s the opposite. Minnesota has the authority and the obligation to give its students a fair shot at higher education. Minnesota students shouldn’t be begging to be allowed to go to college, especially at a time when we will have a shortage of qualified workers.
Moreover, the federal government is debating immigration reform and we need to understand that it will be left to the states to decide to give in-state tuition and financial aid to undocumented youth who are legalized through federal action. It will not provide federal financial aid (the current proposal even says so in the DREAM Act section).
Some ask, “why should we let these students go to college if they cannot legally work?” Some undocumented students are already eligible to legally work through Deferred Action, a federal program (only for certain students who graduated from high school or got their GED). Minnesota should prepare more students who will eventually benefit from federal reform. It’s in the best interests of the state — economically, for our workforce and for closing the achievement gap.
Minnesota Prosperity Act/Dream Act uniquely enjoys broad support
By the time a student graduates from high school, Minnesota has already invested significant resources in their success. To prevent that student from pursuing higher education would be to squander our investment. The Center for American Progress estimates that allowing DREAMers equal access to financial aid would create 1,600 jobs and add an additional $359 million to Minnesota's economy over the next 10 years.
SF723/HF875 has the unique support of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Education Minnesota. It’s supported by the community, student groups, business organizations, faith groups, the U of M, the Minnesota Private College Council, MnSCU, Agri-Growth Council, Chicano Latino Affairs Council, Latino Economic Development Center and many others.
Ultimately, these are students who grew up in Minnesota. They are as Minnesotan as anybody else. We cannot afford to lose the opportunity to tap into talent already in our state.More information