Posted by: Mike P. | May 23, 2011

Maryland SB 167 – Part 2 – Who Qualifies

Please start with Part 1 if you have not already read it.

Much of the information discussed here comes from the fiscal and policy note prepared by the State of Maryland.

Various groups opposed to SB-167 like to characterize the people who will benefit as Illegal Aliens and hence criminals. I do not feel extreme by bolding the term criminal. Read the talking points at designed to turn voters against SB-167 which are based on a variety of disinformation and partial information.

Who are these people? First, they are undocumented individuals. The specifics of undocumented individuals will be covered in another posting. But, please read on. They are not who you think they are.

  1. Starting with the 2005-2006 school year, the student must have attended a Maryland secondary school for at least three years. In other words, the students involved have not recently hopped the border and flocked to Maryland. They have lived in our community for a number of years.
  2. Starting with 2007-2008, the student must have graduated from a Maryland high school or received an equivalency diploma. In other words, the individual graduated high school. These students are not high school drop-outs looking for a place to hang out and waste money.
  3. Provide documentation that the individual or the individual’s parent or legal guardian has filed a Maryland income tax return annually for the three years while the individual attended a high school in the State, during any period between high school graduation and registration at a community college, and during the period of attendance at the community college.
  4. Register at a community college within four years of high school graduation.

So, we have high school graduates (it is illegal to deny public education to undocumented individuals), whose parents pay taxes. Yes, that is correct. We are extending a benefit to taxpayers. While these people may be undocumented, they are earning money, and they are paying taxes. The benefit being extended still requires a substantial contribution from the individual or their family. Therefore, if a student is taking advantage of SB-167, money is being earned, taxes paid, and proof of tax filing must be provided.

So, what else is in the bill? Let’s quote from the Fiscal and Policy Note:

An individual who qualifies for an exemption and is not a permanent resident must also provide an affidavit stating that the individual will file an application to become a permanent resident within 30 days after becoming eligible to do so. In addition, an individual who qualifies for an exemption and is required to register with the Selective Service System must provide documentation of the required registration.

So, the student must take steps to obtain legal status, and do so as soon as possible. Additionally, the student must register for the draft and be prepared to defend our country.

Another interesting component to the bill is that a student must obtain a 2 year degree at a community college prior to moving to a four-year degree granting institution. This has several effects. It limits the overall cost for the education since community college tuition is cheaper. Additionally, should the student prove to be unable to obtain a degree, and fail do so within the first two years, the loss is minimized. Fewer slots at four-year degree schools are occupied, limiting the impact of this bill on documented individuals.

The tuition at the community college is subsidized by the state at the in-county rate, and is subject to the rules stated above. The precise impact to the institutions involved is analyzed in the Fiscal and Policy Note mentioned at the top of this post. The details are complex, so it is best to consult the document directly. The bill does have a provision that the number of students admitted must be reported to the state on an annual basis. Therefore, the impact can be tracked and the bill adjusted if needed via future legislature changes.

So, to sum up: Who are these people: Taxpayers who have lived here for some time, whose children have demonstrated a desire for education, are able to afford in-state tuition, and the students are willing to take the steps needed to become documented.

There are some downsides, of course. The specifics vary by institution and type of institution (community vs. four-year).
Clearly there is a cost to the state, and for some institutions, a possible revenue loss unless adjustments are made. Most institutions have enough leeway to handle any potential losses. A few could experience lower income.

The question is: is educating and embracing this group of undocumented individuals who lie outside the post-secondary educational system worth the cost? The trivial talking points of calling these people “criminals who suck up our tax dollars and that should be deported” is just that: trivial talking points made by short-sighted individuals looking to make a political point at the expense of educating potential future citizens.

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