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UMBC president joins coalition fight for Maryland DREAM Act.

University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) President Freeman A. Hrabowski III supports the dreams of immigrant students who are seeking to improve their lives through education.

Hrabowski joined a diverse coalition to fight for the Maryland DREAM Act. During a news conference last month, which launched the Educating Maryland Kids campaign, Hrabowski pledged his support to an audience of community, faith-based, education, civil rights and labor leaders and students to help make education more affordable for all state residents.

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Under the state's DREAM Act, undocumented immigrants who can prove that they have attended Maryland high schools for at least three years and whose parents or guardians have filed taxes would be allowed to begin courses at community colleges at instate rates.

Those who go on to earn an associate's degree could transfer to a four-year institution with in-state rates applying. At the University of Maryland flagship campus, annual tuition and fees for in-state students is about $8,655, compared with $26,026 for out-of-state students.

Hrabowski said everyone benefits when educational opportunities are expanded. "When these young people become educated, they'll get good jobs. They'll pay taxes. They'll help us all out. I believe that. I have seen that. Where would we be without educated people? We need to support all of our children in getting an education. It's the American way."

The Maryland In-State Tuition Referendum, also known as the DREAM Act Referendum, will appear on the November 2012 ballot in Maryland as an initiated veto referendum.

The legislation was approved by both houses of the Maryland General Assembly during the 2011 legislative session. Senate Bill 167 would allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state or in-county tuition at Maryland colleges. According to reports, the legislation is estimated to cost $3.5 million by 2016.

The bill is supported by immigrant advocacy groups such as Case de Maryland. Many of the groups' concerns are around the idea that undocumented immigrants who graduated from Maryland high schools this spring would be in limbo or college would become financially out of reach for many.

"I know the power of education to transform lives," said Hrabowski, who leads a prominent honors and research university. "Moreover, I know the power of telling a child that, 'Yes, we want you to get the best education possible.'" "Supporting our children is the American way and the right thing to do for many reasons. Most important, perhaps, it leads to a stronger and more prosperous America."

The legislation is also supported by the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore. "Our support for the DREAM Act is woven into the fabric of our history as both Catholics and Americans," said Bishop Denis Madden, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese.

"The Catholic Church in this country today stands proudly on the shoulders of immigrants who built our churches, built our schools, hospitals and so many other institutions," he said. "From the very beginning, we have understood the fundamental value of education, and we have always opened our doors to providing all children the best educational opportunity possible."

Labor unions have also taken a stand behind the DREAM Act. "We are united by a belief that Maryland kids who work hard, graduate from high school and are accepted into a Maryland college deserve the chance to fulfill their dream," said Merle Cuttitta, president of SEIU Local 500.

The law's primary purpose is to help children who came into this country when they were young and were educated under the U.S. educational system and whose parents have paid taxes. The law would make higher education more attainable and affordable.

Karina, a 22-year-old student in Montgomery County, spoke at the news conference as a DREAM student who has attended county public schools and now Montgomery College. Her goal is to complete her education at UMBC studying social work.

"My mother has always told me that education is the path to my success, and I very much believe that. That is why I am working so hard," Karina said, who did not disclose her last name. "I am not the only dreamer here."

While closing with a "We are the Dreamers" chant with fellow students, Karina represents a population under the DREAM Act who would be required to start at a community college for two years or attain 60 credits before being allowed to transfer to a four-year public college or university in the state. Once they apply, students under the DREAM Act would be considered in a pool with out-of-state applicants eliminating competition with native-born Maryland students for spots.

"School is my sanctuary," Karina said. "With access to education, I will never stop learning and contributing more and more and more."
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Title Annotation:noteworthy news; University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) President Freeman A. Hrabowski III
Author:Hayes, Dianne
Publication:Diverse Issues in Higher Education
Geographic Code:1U5MD
Date:Aug 16, 2012
Words:779
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