Only a dream?
We hope the bill Sen. Smucker is proposing, to give children of undocumented immigrants a better chance to go to state colleges, comes true.
Sometimes good ideas come from unlikely sources:
nA diplomatic overture in 1972 to Communist China from staunch anti-Communist President Richard Nixon.
nHealthy eating advice from Southern-fried chef Paula Deen.
nA Pennsylvania version of the Dream Act from Republican state Sen. Lloyd Smucker.
nInternet dating advice from Manti Te'o.
Well, forget that last one. But remember the third one, because Sen. Smucker's initiative is a dream that ought to become reality.
As the Sunday News reported last week, Sen. Smucker, a conservative who represents Lancaster County's 13th District, plans to introduce a bill patterned on Maryland's "Dream Act," allowing young people who were brought to this country as children to qualify for resident tuition rates at state-run and state-related universities.
The legislation, still in development, would require undocumented students to meet Pennsylvania residency requirements and to show proof that they have attended at least two years of high school here before they could be eligible for the lower tuition.
Some online statistics indicate that 800 undocumented students graduate from Pennsylvania high schools each year. Because they aren't legal, they can't qualify for the cheaper tuition at state-owned schools like Millersville University and state-related schools like Penn State and Pitt.
That's a difference of almost $10,000 a year at Millersville and more than $12,000 at Penn State.
Already, Sen. Smucker's proposal is coming under fire from other Republicans, including Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler County, who called the idea "nonsensical."
The senator representing northern Lancaster County, Mike Brubaker, R-36th District, questioned whether the Dream Act would hurt legal Pennsylvania residents when it comes to a limited pool of financial aid.
So why would Sen. Smucker inch out on a limb that his own partisans would like to saw off?
The senator told the Sunday News that giving kids who live in Pennsylvania the same tuition rate as other Pennsylvania students will help them to become productive, taxpaying workers. He said he was touched by the stories of young people in his own district who can't afford college or who don't even apply for higher education for fear that their U.S. residency could be endangered.
We'd add that it's just the right thing to do.
Children who were brought to this country illegally didn't choose their immigration status. A dozen other states, including Maryland, recognize this Catch-22 in extending tuition benefits to undocumented students who live in those states.
Yes, the Dream Act will cost more money. Let's say there are 800 undocumented high school graduates a year in Pennsylvania. Let's hypothesize that all 800 of them (a highly unlikely prospect) apply and are accepted to Penn State or Pitt, with that $12,000 a year differential between in-state and out-of-state tuition. That's about $9.6 million annually.
But let's also consider the economic impact of 800 more students with college degrees, who are more likely to get good jobs, make a decent living and pay taxes on their incomes -- especially compared with the economic impact of 800 kids who might otherwise be stuck working in low-paying retail and service-industry jobs.
What about Rep. Metcalfe's contention that the Dream Act would make Pennsylvania a "sanctuary state" for undocumented students? Considering that 12 other states have Dream Acts already, and considering that Congress is moving toward sensible reforms of national immigration policy, we doubt that Rep. Metcalfe's fear-mongering has any basis in reality.
Some dreams do come true. Even from unlikely sources.n