Editorial: Dream Act would help educate more in New York

In this May 21, 2013 file photo, supporters In this May 21, 2013 file photo, supporters of the New York DREAM Act hold photos of undocumented students who are not eligible for college tuition assistance during a rally at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y. Photo Credit: AP / Mike Groll

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No one benefits when bright young students can't find a way to pay for a college education in New York, even if those students are immigrants who came to the country illegally.

After receiving a solid high school education that is the foundation of this nation's promise of opportunity, many of these students are denied the opportunity to further develop the skills that employers clamor for and which the state needs to prosper. As a result, many will be relegated to lives of low wages and unstable employment. That's no good for the state's economy or its taxpayers. By extending eligibility for college financial aid to those who entered the country without documentation, the New York Dream Act would spare thousands of ambitious young people that fate.

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Unfortunately, the state's Dream Act itself faces an uncertain fate.

The Assembly passed a bill last month that would allow immigrants here illegally to qualify for all state financial aid available to citizens and permanent residents -- most important, the Tuition Assistance Program. The Assembly estimated that would cost about $27 million next year. No citizens would lose any aid. Immigrant families would also be allowed to participate in the 529 tax-free college savings plan, which would help them invest their own money to cover tuition.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said last month that he will sign the Dream Act if it reaches his desk. The biggest obstacle is the State Senate, where similar legislation stalled last year and now appears shy of passage by a handful of Republican votes. That's why the best opportunity for enacting the bill this time around will come later this month, when the eleventh-hour horse-trading in search of a 2015 budget agreement begins in earnest.

Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver should do what it takes to win the backing of Senate Republican leaders to push the Dream Act over the goal line.

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Many of the people who would take advantage of the aid were brought here as children. It wasn't their choice to enter the country illegally. Many know no other home. We should help them realize their dreams, especially since doing so would also boost the state's economy.

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