DREAM Act Won't Crowd Out Citizen Students at Universities, New Study Says


WASHINGTON—Contrary to what critics say, students are not at risk of being shoved out of spots in Maryland community colleges or universities if the DREAM Act is upheld, says a new University of Maryland, Baltimore County study released this week.

The report "Private and Government Fiscal Costs and Benefits of the Maryland Dream Act" was coauthored by professors Thomas Gindling and Marvin Mandell at the Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research. It measures the economic impact of the DREAM Act—for Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors—on government, schools and students.

The study found that "crowding-out effects," an argument used against the DREAM Act by opponents such as the Help Save Maryland campaign, are unlikely in Maryland due to the requirement that students must spend at least two years at a community college before attending a four-year degree program. This may reduce the number of undocumented immigrants in freshmen classes at four-year universities. The report also predicted that the number of undocumented students transferring from community colleges to other universities will be low—only 102 students a year.

The report fills a void in the debate over the DREAM Act, Gindling said.

"What we saw as missing was numbers in cost and benefit analysis," he said.

Gindling and Mandell's yearlong research found that one cost of the DREAM Act would fall on state universities. The 12 state schools would experience a total $1.8 million drop, or about .1 percent, from lost out-of-state tuition. Government subsidies will not cover the loss.

However the cost is small compared to what the study predicted would be the total net economic benefit: $66 million for each annual cohort of students. And that may be an underestimate, the report said, because of the difficulty in measuring the impacts of increased educational attainment.

Gindling said he hopes the report will add depth to the discussions surrounding the state law.

"What we hope is it will make the discussion possibly less emotional and more about the actual outcomes," he said.

The research, however, does not have everyone convinced the DREAM Act will be beneficial to Maryland.

"Here's another shortcoming in the Maryland higher education system," said Brad Botwin, director of Help Save Maryland, about the report. "They used some real shoddy analysis."

Some of the numbers cited he called "laughable." The number of students the study estimated as taking advantage of the DREAM Act, 435, he said is too low. It's more like 1,000, Botwin said. The research also is skewed, he said, because UMBC's president, Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, is a supporter of the act.

Botwin said he worries that the DREAM Act will create a slippery slope that will lead to laws like California's, where undocumented students qualify for, not only in-state tuition, but state-funded financial aid.

The DREAM Act will be overwhelmingly positive for Maryland, Gindling said, and "repealing the Dream Act could be very costly."

The research does not end with Maryland. Gindling said he hopes to expand his research to calculate the costs and benefits of similar legislation for each state.

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