Proposal would help undocumented students attend Pa. colleges - abc27 WHTM

Dauphin County

Proposal would help undocumented students attend Pa. colleges

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Jose is 19 years old, and his parents brought him from Mexico when he was six.

Karina Ambartsoumian was even younger when her parents brought her from the former Soviet Union.

They, and others who gathered in the state capitol Tuesday morning, come from different corners of the world but share a commonality: they grew up in Pennsylvania and are undocumented immigrants.

Ambartsoumian teared up at the microphone as she spoke of her inability to get a drivers license or open a bank account, of living in the shadows. She will be 25 years old in two months and wept, "I have been stateless for the past 20 years. I'm not asking for special treatment. I'm asking for equal treatment."

Equal treatment that would include paying in-state tuition rates at state schools, state-related schools (Penn State, Pitt, Temple, Lincoln), and community colleges. It's called the Dream Act, and it's supported by Philadelphia Democrat Anthony Williams, who spoke emotionally to the children of undocumented immigrants in the crowd.

"Basic institutions such as educational institutions will allow you to participate at its highest and fullest level," Williams said.

The Dream Act was introduced by Lancaster Republican State Senator Lloyd Smucker, who says he met several undocumented students in the Lancaster School District, which is in his senatorial district.

"My view is they're here. They're going to be here. We ought to give them every opportunity to contribute," Smucker said. "I think providing the same opportunity for them or any other kids is the right thing to do."

But many say the Dream Act is all wrong.

Someone with the username 'Slam' wrote on abc27.com, "Yeah give it away to illegals while you take it away from citizens and veterans. This government is insane!"

John adds, "No. That is for state residents. Not even a 'legal' from another state can benefit from that."

Under the Dream Act, undocumented students would still have to graduate from high school (or have GED certificate), and be accepted into college.

They wouldn't get free tuition, but they would get a break. For example, in-state students at Shippensburg University pay $3,214. Out-of-state students pay $7,232.

At Penn State University Park campus, Pennsylvanians pay $15,562. Out-of-state tuition is $27,864.

Smucker's bill would also let undocumented students apply for grants and PHEAA loans. He calls it a good investment.

"This is their home. This is where they grew up. They've had the opportunity to contribute and giving them the opportunity to attend college will let them contribute even more," he said.

Lancaster Schools Superintendent Pedro Rivera is supportive. He says there are many undocumented students in his district.

"Many of the talented students participate in honors programs, participate in international baccalaureate programs."

But it is controversial, and opponents are very vocal. There are only 12 co-sponsors, and even supporters say it has an uphill fight in the Pennsylvania legislature.

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