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By Bill Parry

The state Assembly once again voted to pass the Dream Act Monday, the legislation authorizing undocumented students who graduate high school in New York to apply for college financial aid.The bill would create a Dream fund to advance the educational opportunities of undocumented immigrant students who arrived in the country before the age of 16, remove 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.

Undocumented students currently are ineligible for general financial aid awards, performance-based awards or New York State’s Tuition Assistance Program. The bill has been strongly opposed by the Republican-controlled state Senate.

“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,” the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights), said. “Hundreds of thousands of students have been given a high school education here in New York and are unable to continue their education. Denying hardworking students the tools they need to be successful is an injustice and disservice to everyone. Passing this bill again is bittersweet because I know the Senate will not take action and that New York will continue to lag behind California, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas and Washington that already allow financial aid opportunities for undocumented youth.”

State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) urged his colleagues in the upper chamber to pass the Dream Act “and right this wrong, once and for all.” The lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate said implementation of the Dream Act would cost $27 million, amounting to an average of a few cents annually for an average New York taxpayer.

“Let’s remember that the average college graduate makes more money and pays more in taxes than people who did not receive a higher education degree,” Peralta said. “This is clearly an investment in our future.”

It is estimated that of the roughly 4,500 undocumented students who graduate from New York high schools every year, only 5 to 10 percent are able to pursue a college education because of the financial burden.

“For many New Yorkers, the dream of obtaining higher education would be impossible without years of savings and the help of state financial aid,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “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.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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