The New York State Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act bill would create a DREAM Fund commission and a DREAM Fund in order to advance the educational opportunities of the children of immigrants by providing scholarships to college-bound children who are the children of immigrants.


This bill would also eliminate potential financial obstacles to obtaining State financial aid and extend the opportunities for certain immigrant students to attend higher education institutions in this State; providing a benefit consistent with U.S. citizens and nationals.


Finally this bill would eliminate barriers for immigrant aliens to save for their families higher education expenses by allowing such individuals to open a New York State 529 family tuition account under the New York State College Tuition Savings Program and/or be a designated beneficiary on an account if they have a taxpayer identification number.


FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: This bill would allow certain undocumented students to access the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). Currently, the maximum TAP award for students attending four-year colleges is $5,000 and the maximum TAP award for students attending community colleges is the tuition at community colleges in the State. The costs of this bill would depend on the number of undocumented students that choose to apply for TAP grants as well as the level of their TAP award.


Currently, New York enables hundreds of thousands of undocumented students to receive education through the state's public school system; our state recognizes the value of an investment in career and college readiness for these students. It makes economic sense to help these young students become fully participant in New York's economy. Yet their futures are undeniably circumscribed by current immigration law and State law relating to State financial aid for postsecondary education. These young people generally derive their immigration status from their parents. If their parents are undocumented, many have no mechanism to obtain legal residency, even if they have lived most of their lives in the U.S.


Current State law prohibits undocumented immigrant students from receiving State financial aid (i.e., general awards and academic performance awards). Denying them aid means denying them access to higher education. This bill would seek to ease the financial burden of the high cost of higher education by creating a commission and fund to raise money in order to provide scholarships to the children of immigrants as well as allowing eligible undocumented aliens to receive such awards by making graduates of New York high schools or programs leading to a State high school equivalency diploma and persons otherwise eligible for in-state tuition in SUNY, CUNY or other institutions eligible to receive such awards regardless of their residence or immigration status. Thus, the bill also allows nonresidents of the State to be eligible for these awards if they meet the specified qualifications in order to not violate federal law. The bill also seeks to ensure compliance with immigration laws, by requiring immigrant students to demonstrate that they have taken appropriate steps to legalize their immigration status.


Our society and our economic growth depend on a vibrant, well-educated workforce, but right now, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are denied the opportunity to the education they need to fully participate in our economy. Without access to higher education, these students are far too often forced into the shadows of poverty and desperate existence.

This bill addresses the compelling need to maintain educational opportunities at SUNY and CUNY, community colleges, and State-aided four-year colleges for certain immigrant students in New York State. To accomplish this, the bill provides that SUNY and CUNY, community colleges and State-aided four-year programs allow non-resident students to have the payment of tuition and other fees and charges reduced by State-aided programs, scholarships or other financial assistance awarded if the student meets the criteria that would qualify him or her to receive TAP or other general awards under Education Law § 651.


The bill also allows undocumented non-resident aliens to receive supplemental financial assistance as part of the higher education opportunity programs and the collegiate technology entry programs if they meet the criteria that would qualify them to receive TAP or other general awards under Education Law § 651.


Finally, the bill recognizes the importance of attracting hard-working undocumented aliens to public and private colleges and universities within the State by enabling such students to benefit from the tax incentive provided for qualified state tuition programs under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. The bill allows undocumented aliens with a taxpayer identification number to open a family tuition account and/or to be a designated beneficiary of such account, except in limited exceptions.


This bill would extend New York State's legacy of providing a high-quality, affordable higher education to hard-working immigrants and would reinforce our State's commitment to being a beacon of freedom and opportunity for immigrants.


Source: http://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2015/S1251