Updated 04/12/11: The State of Maryland is well on its way to making higher education accessible to undocumented students, as both houses passed the Maryland DREAM Act and Governor O’Malley has pledged to sign into law. Last Friday, Maryland’s House of Delegate passed an in-state tuition bill (HB 470) by a vote of 74-66. On Monday, in the final hours of the 2011 legislative sessions, the General Assembly agreed on one version of the bill (the Senate passed a version last month) after Democrats compromised on an amendement. The bill, which now goes to Gov. O’Malley, allows unauthorized immigrants to access in-state tuition if they have been students at public high schools or universities in Maryland for three consecutive years.

The Maryland DREAM Act is not only a bill that benefits unauthorized immigrant students, but U.S. citizens as well as lawful immigrants since the bill changes the tuition requirements for all Maryland students to make higher education more accessible. According to Casa de Maryland, in order to qualify for in-state tuition under the Maryland DREAM Act, an individual must:

  • Have attended the last three years and graduated from a Maryland high school;
  • Plan to attend college within 3 years of graduation;
  • Come from a family that has paid Maryland income taxes in at least the last year of high school; and
  • Sign an affidavit stating that they will apply for permanent residency within 30 days of becoming eligible to do so.

Maryland would join 10 other states which currently provide tuition equity for undocumented students, including California, New York, Kansas, Nebraska, Utah, Washington, Texas, Wisconsin, Illinois, and New Mexico. Other states considering similar laws include Oregon (SB 742), Colorado (SB 126) and Connecticut (HB 6390).

While the Maryland DREAM Act is a step in the right direction, a nation-wide DREAM Act is truly needed to level the playing field for all undocumented students, not just some. The DREAM Act would not only provide in-state tuition similar to Maryland’s version, but would also allow unauthorized students to legalize after completing two years of college or two years of military service, giving students like Juan Gomez—a Georgetown student facing deportation who will graduate magna cum laude—the opportunity to earn a living, pay taxes and contribute to the only nation he calls home.

Photo by Indoloony