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Move to expand college aid for immigrant youth

NY State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver joined with Assemb. Francisco Moya and Higher Education Committee Chair Deborah J. Glick Friday, Jan. 18 to announce the introduction of a comprehensive state Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act to continue New York’s legacy of educational support for immigrant youth. The legislation, for the first time would also allow immigrant students to apply for state financial aid as well as create a DREAM Fund that would provide private scholarships.

“Our immigrant families, like many struggling in these trying economic times, need financial help to achieve their educational goals,” said Silver. “As a child of immigrants, I know that investing in these inspiring students represents an investment in our future.”

The bill (A.2597) would make New York one of just four states – the others are Texas, New Mexico, and California – to offer state financial aid to the children of immigrants. In-state tuition has been available to New York’s immigrant youth since 2002, an option available in just 11 other states. The criteria for access to state financial aid would match the strict criteria for students seeking in-state tuition.

This legislation would also give young immigrants access to a broad range of state educational opportunity programs such as: Tuition Assistance Program (TAP); Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP); Educational Opportunity Program (EOP); Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (C-STEP); and Opportunity programs available at community colleges.

“I believe in a New York where immigration status should never be a barrier for young college-bound students from attaining a good quality education. To deny these students access to educational opportunities is unacceptable,” said Moya.

“Today, the Assembly continues our fight to ensure equal educational opportunities for all of New York’s children,” said Glick. “The DREAM Act is an important step towards breaking down barriers and ensuring that every student in this state has a chance to make their dreams come true.”

The measure would also create a DREAM Fund committed to advancing the educational goals of the children of immigrants through privately-funded scholarships and broadened access to the New York State College Tuition Savings (529) Program through family tuition accounts.

The DREAM Fund would raise private funds in order to provide scholarships to college-bound children with at least one immigrant parent. The DREAM Fund commission would be comprised of 12 members that reflect the racial, ethnic, gender, language and geographic diversity of NYS; and include college and university administrators and faculty and other individuals committed to advancing the educational opportunities of the children of immigrants. Four members will be appointed by the governor, three by the Assembly speaker, three by the temporary Senate president, one by the Senate minority leader, and one by the Assembly minority geader.

The family tuition accounts would be available to anyone who provides a valid taxpayer identification number. These tuition accounts have been federally approved since 2002 and are similar to state-run programs in California and Illinois. They allow for systematic savings, making it easier for New York’s hardworking immigrant families to save for their children’s futures.

“We applaud Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assemblyman Francisco Moya for introducing the most comprehensive DREAM legislation in our state,” said Yenny Quispe, a DREAMer from Make the Road New York and a junior at City College. “The new bill will allow me to access financial aid and accomplish my goal of obtaining a college education. I look forward to working hard with my friends to pass the NYS DREAM Act this year.”

“Hispanic Federation greatly appreciates the leadership of Speaker Silver and Assemblyman Moya in moving aggressively to pass DREAM legislation that opens up access to higher education and extends the state’s Tuition Assistance Program to all New York’s immigrants,” said Jose Calderon, president of the Hispanic Federation. “The Latino community is ready to work with the Assembly to pass this bill in 2013 and we call on the senate and the governor to support it.”

“Assemblyman Moya’s bill is a great step toward ensuring that all New York students, regardless of immigration status, have the opportunity for higher education, and that our state has the highly skilled and educated work force we need for a prosperous future,” said Héctor Figueroa, President of 32BJ.

“The New York Immigration Coalition applauds Speaker Silver and Assembly Member Moya for introducing the comprehensive DREAM Act legislation that will provide undocumented students with equal access to financial assistance so they can pursue their dreams of higher education,” said Chung-Wha Hong, the NYIC executive director. “Recent elections have demonstrated the power of Latino, Asian and immigrant voters and have highlighted the need for changes in our immigration system at the local, state and federal levels. We can no longer exclude New York’s DREAM youth from the promise of higher education afforded their classmates. We look forward to collaborating with the legislature and Gov. Cuomo to finally make the DREAMS of New York’s youth a reality.”

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