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May 20, 2013

DiNapoli Releases Report on Proposed NYS DREAM Act

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli released a report today estimating the cost and economic benefits of the proposed New York State Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors (NYS DREAM) Act, which would increase access to financial aid for undocumented college students. The report concluded that extending eligibility for the state’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) to undocumented undergraduate students would provide economic benefits to the state at a very small cost.

“Passage of the New York State DREAM Act would lower the financial barrier to college education for undocumented students,” DiNapoli said. “A better educated workforce will benefit New York’s economy. This investment would yield valuable economic benefits for New York State down the road.”

Nearly 95 percent of all state-funded financial aid given to students who are New York State residents stems from TAP. Last year, TAP provided more than $920 million in financial assistance, aiding nearly 30 percent of the state’s enrolled students.

DiNapoli’s report estimates that additional TAP costs would be less than $20 million, an increase of less than 2 percent, if extended to current undocumented undergraduate students attending the City University of New York (CUNY) and State University of New York (SUNY) colleges.

Undocumented college students, while eligible for in-state tuition rates if they demonstrate New York state residency, are currently ineligible for TAP. To qualify for TAP under New York’s proposed Dream Act (A. 2597-Moya/S.2378-Peralta), undocumented students would have to either have graduated from a New York high school, which they attended for at least two years, or received a New York State GED. Applicants would have to apply to a postsecondary institution within five years of receiving their high school diploma or GED.

The NYS DREAM Act would also allow individuals to open a 529 College Savings account for the benefit of undocumented students and would create a DREAM Fund Commission, which would be authorized to raise private funds to provide scholarships to students of immigrant parents.

DiNapoli’s report estimates that 8,300 undocumented undergraduate students were enrolled in public institutions of higher education throughout New York State in the fall of 2012, with the overwhelming majority enrolled in schools in the downstate region. More than three-quarters of the students attended the City University of New York (CUNY), accounting for less than 3 percent of CUNY’s undergraduate enrollment. Another 19 percent of the undocumented students attended State University of New York (SUNY) colleges in the five counties surrounding New York City. A small number of undocumented undergraduate students attended SUNY colleges elsewhere in the state.

DiNapoli’s report notes that the demand for higher-skilled workers is increasing, especially in New York City. The unemployment rate for people with only a high school diploma was twice as high compared to those with a bachelor’s degree in the downstate region in March 2013. The report found the median wage for workers with a bachelor’s degree in the downstate region was 85 percent higher than those with only a high school diploma.

DiNapoli noted that financial aid will likely encourage more undocumented students to graduate high school and to attend college. The report estimates that a person with an associate’s degree would pay more than $35,000 in additional state taxes over their working lifetimes – more than five times the $8,000 maximum TAP award for a traditional two-year degree. A person with a bachelor’s degree would pay more than an additional $60,000 in state taxes.

Currently, 17 states, including New York, offer in-state tuition rates and three (California, New Mexico and Texas) also offer state-funded financial aid as proposed in the NYS DREAM Act.

"The NYS DREAM Act would make my dream become a reality and give everyone the same right to an education and a better future," said Pamela Dominguez, sophomore at LaGuardia Community College, DREAMer and leader at Make the Road NY.

“The Latino and immigrant community owes a huge debt of gratitude to Comptroller DiNapoli for completing such an excellent cost-benefit analysis of the NYS DREAM Act. With the findings of this report by the Comptroller's office, there are no more excuses for Albany to hold up this critically important legislation that would open up higher education to thousands of bright, hard-working immigrant students,” said José Calderón, president of the Hispanic Federation.

"This is another reason why the NYS DREAM Act must be passed this session. As a students’ rights group, NYPIRG sees this as a no brainer, common sense piece of legislation that the legislature now has the power to make the dreams of many New Yorkers a reality,” said Kevin Stump, higher education program coordinator at the New York Public Interest Research Group.

"Thanks to the Comptroller DiNapoli's study, we now have confirmed that the NYS DREAM Act is an economic imperative for New York. As the largest undocumented youth-led organization in New York, we find it unacceptable that hundreds of our members will be unable to attend college as they graduate from high school this June," said Razeen Zaman, advocacy coordinator at the New York State Youth Leadership Council.

"The New York City Central Labor Council supports the NYS DREAM Act, because it would provide thousands of undocumented students a real path to realizing their educational potential. Comptroller DiNapoli's report delivers important information about how this pending legislation would impact our state's economy while helping students work toward their dreams,” said Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

"The Legislature must pass the NYS DREAM Act this session. The undocumented young people who attend CUNY and those who aspire to attend CUNY are highly motivated, talented students. Undocumented youth contribute to the economy, the life and culture of our state; they shouldn’t have to wait another minute for a State Dream Act. With access to financial aid and opportunity programs, they will have the chance at a better life that is the right of every New Yorker," said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, the union that represents faculty and staff at CUNY.

“Comptroller DiNapoli’s cost estimate for the NYS DREAM Act reaffirms what many of us already know – passing this legislation is the right thing to do for New York, both morally and economically. There are just a few weeks left in session, and we urge the legislature to do the right thing and pass the NYS DREAM Act now. New York’s undocumented youths can’t wait another year to make their dreams of higher education come true,” said Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

For a copy of the report, visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/osdc/rpt1-2014.pdf

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