With S. 744’s recent passage through the US Senate, many questions have arisen about its potential efficiency in dealing with America’s immigration policy. One of the most prolific of these inquiries could leave undocumented immigrants wondering about their future, and in turn, the possibilities this new reform allows them in terms of higher education.
Prior to the bills vote in the Senate, President of American Council on Education (ACE), Molly Corbett Broad, urged senators to vote in favor of the bill through sending written letters. Why? According to the ACE website, she believes “S. 744 is a very sound and important bill which is critical to our nation’s future,” also going on to claim, “U.S. colleges and universities, which are both educators and employers, would benefit from the improvements to our immigration system included in S. 744.”
The educational aspect of the immigration reform stems from provisions seen in the DREAM Act, which was drafted over ten years ago. According to ACE, the version of the Act incorporated in the reform removes the age cap for eligibility, which stood at 15 years of age or younger upon entry into the country.
Another major difference is that the version in the bill eliminates the federal law limiting states’ options in providing in-state tuition to undocumented students. Out-of-state and international student tuition rates are higher. Likewise, it allows DREAM Act students to qualify for federal loans and work-study, which could be essential for students from low-income families in need of assistance.
According to Institute of Education Sciences (IES):
“Sixty-six percent of all undergraduates received some type of financial aid in 2007–08. For those who received any aid, the total average amount received was $9,100. Fifty-two percent received grants averaging $4,900, and 38 percent took out an average of $7,100 in student loans.”
Should S. 744 pass through the House, these numbers would likely increase, which could potentially create a competitive dilemma with more students receiving a higher education than there are career opportunities.
It should be questioned whether the potential payoff of an educated workforce is worth the cost of providing education. However, the reforms are aimed at creating the same opportunity among students regardless of residency status.
Broad summed up the DREAM Act provisions in the bill, urging its passing would “offer thousands of undocumented students, who graduate from our high schools every year, an expedited path to citizenship for accomplishing academic pursuits and/or serving in the U.S. military.”
She also touched on the bills potential impact on the future of these undocumented students and their impact in the country, arguing it would benefit “our long-term economic growth by providing these young people a way out of the shadows and into our workforce.”
If this were the case, S. 744 could bring about a surge of educational opportunities for undocumented immigrants, all the while possibly allowing them to assimilate into our society as legal citizens.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan argues the DREAM Act provisions, would benefit America’s future:
“Our country’s best and brightest include students and families of every culture and creed, who deserve a fair shot at success whether they were born in the United States or chosen it as their home.”
For undocumented immigrants to find their way out of the shadows, opportunities would need to be extended. Whether this reform would help or hinder is the question. But the House still has yet to vote, and has made it clear they don’t intend to let it become law.