For the first time by popular vote, a state will allow qualifying undocumented immigrant students to access in-state tuition rates and state financial aid.
The Maryland Dream Act will help anywhere from hundreds to thousands of students access higher education in the state over the next several years. With the projected passage of the initiative, Maryland joins 13 other states that offer some form of tuition equity for undocumented students.
The Maryland Board of Elections reported an unofficial tally of votes this morning, with 58.3 percent supporting the measure and 41.7 percent opposing. An estimated 96 percent of precincts have reported, which includes early voting and election-day voting but not absentee ballots. The final votes will not be officially tallied until Nov. 16 and an official announcement will not be made until Dec. 7.
The bill passed the state's General Assembly in April 2011 and gained the approval of Gov. Martin O'Malley, but opponents collected enough signatures to force a referendum.
While the program draws its name from a federal piece of legislation called the DREAM Act, the state-level bill is much more limited in scope.
The federal DREAM Act would provide a pathway to citizenship for qualifying undocumented young people who attend college or serve in the military. The bill last came up for a vote in 2010, but failed accrue enough votes to bypass a Republican filibuster.
The Maryland Dream Act does not address citizenship in any way, but allows certain undocumented students better access to state funding for higher education.
To qualify for the Maryland Dream Act, students need to have attended a Maryland high school for three years and be able to prove that their parents have paid taxes.
Three states have laws to keep undocumented students out of state colleges. Alabama and South Carolina ban enrollment for undocumented students, as do some state colleges in Georgia.