In the first year that undocumented immigrants could get in-county tuition rates at local colleges, 200 registered at Montgomery College under the Maryland Dream Act.
That’s almost half the number that an analysis by the Maryland Department of Legislative Services had predicted at the college by 2013.
An analysis attached to the bill that passed allowing the tuition change estimated that 366 full-time undocumented students would qualify for in-county tuition at Montgomery College.
The Maryland Dream Act was approved by the legislature in 2011. It was petitioned to referendum, then affirmed in the Nov. 6, 2012, election, passing with more than 58 percent of statewide votes.
College officials said that after the law passed, they were in a “mad dash” trying to get information together for the upcoming spring 2013 students, as they tried to reach every student who would be eligible under the new law.
“Students came in and identified themselves and provided the forms that we needed to process,” said Melissa Gregory, chief of enrollment services and a financial aid officer at Montgomery College.
The law exempts undocumented students who attended and graduated from Maryland high schools from paying out-of-state or out out-of-county rates at colleges in Maryland.
Gregory said the biggest challenge after the Dream Act passed was to identify the students eligible under the bill.
“We don’t ask students to identify their status in that way, so we had to look for students that had missing information about their status or information they had not provided. Then do a very wide sweep to as many people as possible to say, ‘Hey, the Maryland Dream Act may affect you, and if it does, this is what you want to do,’” Gregory said.
The measure helped students like Josue Aguiluz, who moved to Maryland from Honduras nine years ago, at age 13, with his parents and three brothers. The move meant significant changes, from learning a new language to adapting to a different culture.
Aguiluz is an undocumented student — a person who either overstayed a visa or entered the country without authorization — who is now able to pay in-state tuition because of the Maryland Dream Act.
“First, it doesn’t really hit you that much. You are young. School is free, and you don’t really need a job. ... But when you go to Montgomery College, it shifts completely. You don’t really have assistance financially. You really see the big gap,” Aguiluz said.
Aguiluz tried to extend his student visa, so he would not become undocumented, but he said U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services rejected his request. That happened “even though I was taking AP courses when I was a freshmen in high school,” he said. “It just does not make any sense to me.”
But Aguiluz never stopped following his mother’s advice: “If you are a good person, good things are going to happen to you.”
He plans to transfer to the University of Maryland and get into the Robert H. Smith School of Business.
He also works at Panera Bread bakery and is saving money to pay for school.
Aguiluz is projected to get an associate degree in accounting from Montgomery College in the Spring 2014 semester.
Jonathan Jayes-Green had more than 1,000 community service hours by 2010, at the end of his high school career at John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring. He worked as an intern for Councilwoman Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4). He won a Public Service Award from Congressman Christopher Van Hollen Jr. and a Wheaton and Kensington Chamber of Commerce community service student of the year award. Jayes-Green was part of the Montgomery College honors program and won the 2011 immigrant youth achievement award by the American Immigration Council.
Jayes-Green, also an undocumented student, is majoring in sociology and social justice at Goucher College, a private Baltimore college.
His first choice was to attend University of Maryland, but he could not afford state institutions. The Maryland Dream Act had not passed by the time he was ready for college. It was cheaper for Jayes-Green to pay for a private institution and live on campus than to go to the state school near his house.
“I graduated top of my high school class. ... Within my high school years, I had over 1,000 hours of community services. ... I went from being the immigrant student to now realizing that there was a full community out there really investing in seeing me succeed,” he said.
Jayes-Green’s parents wanted him to have better education and better opportunities, so they moved to Maryland from Panama in 2005, when he was 13 years old.
His family had tourist visas. They tried to adjust their status, but Jayes-Green said the family received wrong information about the U.S. immigration process from a lawyer, and eventually become undocumented.
Opponents have argued that the Maryland Dream Act violates existing federal law.
“When they graduate, they are not allowed to work. ... It is not a good investment for the state to take,” said Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Dist. 2B) of Hagerstown, chairman of MDPetitions.com, which formed to put the Dream Act on the ballot.
Parrott said he understands the situation and believes it is “not fair to everyone all around.” He said the measure encourages more illegal activity. The best solution is for parents to “come here legally. ... It really is pretty simple,” Parrott said.
Students taking classes under the Dream Act hope that by the time they graduate there will be a immigration reform that will allow them to work.
But a study by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County released in 2012 concluded that the Maryland Dream Act would benefit state and local governments with $6.2 million in economic activity from increased earnings if about 435 students per year take advantage of the Act.
The report estimated that Dream Act students will make up about 0.6 percent of the total number of students at the state’s public higher-education facilities.
The fiscal policy note attached to the bill also stated that for each additional student who qualifies under the bill, local community colleges will receive additional state aid. The estimated state expenditure in the 2014 fiscal year is $2,100 per full-time student multiplied by 366 students, which means the overall state expenditure would increase by $768,600 in 2014 and $3.5 million by fiscal 2016.
The fiscal costs of the program for additional schooling — measured as per-student funding that subsidizes high school and higher education — will be about $3.6 million for county governments, $3.6 million for the state and $200,000 for the federal government, according to the report.
But such costs will be more than offset by increased tax dollars, as well as a drop in spending on incarceration and other social programs that is expected to accompany a more educated population, according to the study.
The state and county governments stand to share an estimated $6.2 million in tuition from undocumented students who will be attending school at the reduced cost, while the federal government would get about $18.4 million in increased tax revenues and lower government spending on incarceration, a result of a more educated population, according to the report.
At Montgomery College, for a student taking 12 credits in a semester, the lowest total cost for tuition and fees would be $1,780.80. At out-of-county rates, a student taking 12 credits would pay $4,689.60 for tuition and fees.
Tuition for in-state students at the University of Maryland, College Park, costs about $9,000 each year, while students who do not qualify as state residents pay more than $27,000.
Opponents argued that the Dream Act would affect community college revenues and reduce the number of slots available in public institutions.
But the University of Maryland report stated otherwise, suggesting that additional undocumented immigrant students admitted to Maryland public community colleges — which have open enrollment — will have no impact on the probability that other students will or will not be admitted. It also stated that the Dream Act will not hurt the number of citizens admitted as freshmen to a four-year public university.
For Jayes-Green, who is projected to graduate from Goucher College in 2014, this is just the beginning of his journey.
“It is hard to pick one dream because I dream a lot. I think at the end of the day, I want people to remember me as someone that made an impact in the community,” he said.
Aguiluz’s future plans includes learning more about bookkeeping and auditing.
“As far as accounting goes, I want to do investing and planning people’s retirements,” he said. “I feel like every place that I’ve gone to work, I see old people and a lot of Hispanic mothers. ... And, perhaps, if they could have invested the money, that could be your retirement or some college money for your kids.”