In the final hours of the state’s 2011 legislative season, Maryland made history when it became the twelfth state to pass a law granting undocumented immigrant students the right to pay in-state tuition at the state’s four-year colleges.
The new law, which Gov. Martin O’Malley has pledged to sign, will allow students to be recognized as residents of their home states regardless of their immigration status and pay in-state tuition at Maryland’s public four-year colleges if they clear three hurdles: graduate from a Maryland high school, complete 60 credits at a Maryland community college and prove they and their parents paid income taxes for the prior three years.
On Monday night, the vote hit a last minute snag when it was sent back to a conference committee after the Senate refused to clear new House amendments. Under the House revision, which passed last Friday, undocumented immigrant students will be considered out-of-state applicants during the admissions process. Maryland reserves spots for state residents, which undocumented immigrant students will not be allowed to access. Once accepted and if eligible, undocumented immigrant students can then pay in-state tuition.
The second amendment made it mandatory for undocumented immigrant males to register with the Selective Service in order to take advantage of in-state tuition eligibility. The third, which would have made undocumented immigrant students exempt from showing income tax returns if they had family who were too ill to do so, was what nearly derailed the bill, reported the University of Maryland’s Diamondback Online. At the last minute that amendment was taken out. The bill passed both chambers without one Republican vote.
“It’s about treating high school graduates the same,” State Sen. Victor Ramirez told University of Maryland’s Diamondback Online. Ramirez authored the bill.
“They live in the state of Maryland, they’ve gone through our system and their parents are paying taxes. And they have the grades to be able to go on to further education.”
In Maryland, the law means the difference between $8,416 in tuition that state residents pay and $24,831 that out-of-state students must pay. The economic burden is compounded by the fact that undocumented immigrant students are barred from accessing federal financial aid, grants or loans.
Texas was the first state to pass an in-state tuition bill in 2001. According to the National Conference on State Legislatures, 11 states have passed laws granting undocumented immigrant students the right to pay in-state tuition. Both New Mexico and Texas allow undocumented immigrant students to receive financial aid, and California is considering its own DREAM Act that would allow undocumented immigrant students access to state financial aid.