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Study: ‘Dream Act’ Would Be Net Gain for Maryland

What financial effect would the Dream Act have?

The first in-depth fiscal analysis of the Maryland “Dream Act” claims that the law would yield a $66 million long-term gain for each yearly group of undocumented students allowed to pay in-state tuition at state community colleges and universities.

The Dream Act was signed into law in the spring of 2011 but was promptly stymied by a Republican-led referendum petition. It is one of four controversial statewide ballot questions voters will settle on Nov. 6.

It would allow certain illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Maryland community colleges and, later, universities. The qualifications include:

  • Graduating from a state high school after attending at least three years
  • Proving that students or their parents pay state taxes
  • Applying for permanent U.S. residency and for the U.S. Selective Service

Qualifying students would start at a two-year community college. When they apply to a four-year school, they would be evaluated as part of the out-of-state applicant pool.

Similar laws are in effect in a dozen other states, but Maryland’s version—if it survives Election Day—would be the first to be approved by voters.

Dream Act opponents were able to build support in part by questioning the law’s murky details, The Washington Post reported. But the new study, released Monday, suggests that the Dream Act will be a $66 million net gain for each class of students.

Conducted by the Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, the study weighs the initial costs of the students' lowered tuition payments against the benefits of improving the student’s long-term earning potential and decreasing their dependence on government support.

Some of the report’s key findings:

  • 435 students per year will enroll in community college under the Dream Act
  • Those students will together cost their county’s government $3.6 million, another $3.6 million for the state, and $200,000 for the federal government
  • Presuming that each student will continue living in Maryland, the net gain from each year’s crop of Dream Act students will come to $66 million.

"The initial costs of the investment in education will be more than offset by increased tax revenues and lower government spending on incarceration and other government programs that result from a more educated citizenry," its authors wrote.

The report comes on the heels of DREAMers’ last and biggest public demonstration, a rally on Saturday in which hundreds of students and activists marched from Langley Park to the University of Maryland-College Park.

Watch NBC4’s video of the rally here and read The Washington Post’s coverage here.

Meanwhile, the Republican-led campaign against the Dream Act—which so easily collected more than twice the number of signatures needed to block the Dream Act from taking effect last year—appears to be languishing.

The grassroots effort mustered a few events this summer but the movement has shown little sign of having maintained its “fever pitch” from last year, reports The Baltimore Sun

"Since it made it to the referendum stage, there is no umbrella committee that's organized and funded to promote it," Sen. Edward R. Reilly told The Sun. "It's still a hot-button issue when I talk to people one-on-one, but there's nobody pushing for it."

Germantown resident Brad Botwin, director of the anti-illegal immigrant group Help Save Maryland, told The Sun that HSM will be airing radio ads in the coming weeks.

The Dream Act will go to referendum on Nov. 6, do you support the Dream Act? Tell us in comments.

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