Maryland Dream Act Expected to Pass

Undocumented students may be eligible for in-state tuition.

ByABC News
March 9, 2011, 1:35 PM

March 11, 2011— -- Jesus Perez dreams of being a social worker. The 11th grader hopes to give back by being a saving grace for the disadvantaged in his community.

"I just want to help people," said Perez.

The path to his dream may be more costly than he expected.

Perez is undocumented. He was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. at age 5. A Maryland resident, Perez gets good grades and hopes to attend a Maryland state university. But as it stands, state law requires undocumented students to pay out-of-state tuition, which is often three times the in-state rate.

"I do not want a free education; I just want to pay the same amount of money as any other Maryland resident that attends a university or college," said Perez.

At the University of Maryland, in-state students pay $8,416 in tuition and mandatory fees annually while non-residents are expected to pay $24,831 in tuition and mandatory fees.

"They say the problem is that I'm not legal," said Perez.

Perez was one of nearly 100 immigrant students in Annapolis, Md., recently, demonstrating his support for a proposed new bill that is scheduled to be voted on early next week.

Senate Bill 167, the Maryland version of the Dream Act, would authorize in-state tuition benefits at a local community college to undocumented students who have graduated from a public high school in that county and whose parents can prove they pay Maryland taxes. After two years, they would have the option of transferring to a state university at in-state tuition rates.

Plus, students who are not permanent residents must provide to the public college an affidavit stating that they will file an application to become a permanent resident within 30 days after becoming eligible to do so.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George's County) and, despite a stormy debate, is expected to pass.

Adding to the student voices was Yolanda Vargas Barba, a Maryland student and permanent resident, who said during the hearing that she wasn't asked to come to the U.S.

"I feel like I am being punished for something that wasn't my choice," said Barba.