Voter approval of a bill granting in-state tuition to some illegal immigrants could have economic benefits totalling $66 million annually, according to a study released this week.
The study, released by the Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, also found that costs to community colleges and four-year universities may not be fully covered by state subsidies. The shortfall could result in either an increase in tuition or the reduction of classes offered.
Authors wrote that the study highlights "that by increasing educational attainment, the DREAM Act will increase lifetime earnings of beneficiaries, as well as tax revenues." [A copy of the study is attached to this article.]
Marylanders will be asked to vote on the bill on Nov. 6.
As passed by the General Assembly in 2011, the law would offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrants under certain conditions including:
- Attended a public or nonpublic high school in Maryland for at least three years beginning in the 2005-2006 school year.
- Graduated from high school or received a GED in Maryland no earlier than the 2007-2008 school year.
- Can provide documentation that the student or student's parent or legal guardian filed a state income tax return for at least three years while the student was in high school.
- Registers for community college within four years of high school graduation
- Begins attending community college no earlier than the 2010 fall semester.
- Files an application to become a permanent resident within 30 days of becoming eligible to do so.
As many as 185 additional students who would have not graduated from high school annually will graduate as a result of the DREAM Act, according to the study.
About 435 students will attend community college as a result of the law, according to the study.
If approved by voters, students can attend community colleges in Maryland at the in-state rate and possibly at the in-county rate if they live within the same county as the college. The difference between in-county and the higher out-of-state tuition rates can run as much as $7,000 annually per student per semester.
Students who graduate from community college are eligible for the in-state tuition rate at Maryland's public universities. The difference in tuition runs an average of $10,000 higher for an out-of-state student compared to a Maryland resident, according to a Maryland Department of Legislative Services review.
The study says that total state, local and federal bill of $7.4 million annually is offset by $32 million in net benefits.
The so-called "crowding out effect," an area of concern cited by opponents , was not addressed by the study.
Community colleges have an open admission standard and must accept any student who meets the minimum qualifications.
The authors wrote that they believed "the DREAM Act will not have a negative impact on the number of citizens admitted as freshman to four-year universities(if anything, it will open up space)."
The study estimates that only 102 students annually will transfer to four-year universities. More than 117,000 students were enrolled in state universities in Maryland in 2012.
The study does cite concerns about "reductions in tuition paid by those who take advantage of the DREAM Act will result in lost revenue to Maryland community colleges and universities. However, this lost revenue will not directly translate into an increase in state or county government spending [subsidies]."
The result could be that universities raise tuition or reduce the number of classes or other services offered to students though the authors wrote that they believe the lost tuition revenue will be "relatively small."
The costs of the act could also increase if the law "makes Maryland a more attractive destination for undocumented immigrants and their families," according to the report.