By Alex Domine ’12
Education is key in fueling a successful economy. It produces jobs, increases tax revenue and lowers poverty levels. Education should be absolved from government affairs. The Federal DREAM Act creates more opportunities for higher education and is therefore an advance to a better economy.
Vice President of Pacific Lutheran University Admissions Karl Stumo, said that the mission of PLU is to create academic rigor through diversity of thought and input and talks about the results of opposing the Federal DREAM Act.
“It [opposing DREAM] would create a misalignment between the institution, its mission and the market it serves regionally, because there are literally thousands of undocumented students in our region, right here in our back yard” said Stumo.
On Oct. 8 2011, California State Legislation approved the California DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Undocumented Minors) Act. This legislation makes college education accessible to undocumented minors of illegal immigrants. A similar act has been in United States legislation for more than ten years. It is time for the rest of America to take a cue from California.
The California DREAM Act allows children who were brought to America by the age of 16, who do not have proper immigration documentation and who have regularly attended high school, eligible for in-state tuition and all financial aid programs in California.
The Federal DREAM Act functions much like the California account. However, it would apply nationally and add conditional U.S residency for undocumented students. This federal version of the bill was introduced in 2001 and has not yet passed.
“A pathway to legal status is really beyond its time.” -Karl Stumo, Vice-President of PLU Admissions
Many students in America are willing to pursue an education to become active members of society. Unfortunately, the delay of the Federal DREAM Act creates barriers for them producing a surplus of unproductive population.
California State Republican Assemblyman, Tim Donnelly, led the opposition against the California DREAM Act in October. Donnelly claimed that the DREAM Act would encourage illegal immigration and cause legal students to compete with undocumented immigrants for public resources.
It seems as though the opposition for the DREAM Act stems from little more than misplaced patriotism. Financial return is a major benefit of the Federal DREAM Act. It doesn’t matter if a U.S citizen delivers those benefits or an undocumented student brought to the U.S. as a minor.
There are fewer tha ten undocumented students at PLU and Stumo knows these students well.
“The opposition of the DREAM Act is fairly myopic, it’s fairly short sighted. It doesn’t give benefits to those who somehow haven’t earned them” said Stumo. “It is not very hopeful or opportunistic. It’s looking back and not looking forward.”
The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that 1.5 million undocumented students currently reside in the United States.
The College Board is an institution of 5,000 universities best known for their Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). According to The College Board, 65,000 of undocumented students graduate high school and even less pursue higher education due to the conditions of their immigration status.
More than 300,000 high school graduates would qualify under the Federal DREAM Act. Furthermore, 715,000 children, ages 5-17, would be eligible for financial aid if the DREAM Act motivated them to obtain a high school diploma.
These figures represent 70 percent of undocumented students who would mobilize and achieve higher education through the Federal DREAM Act. This influx in college students would reduce high school dropout rates and generate skilled workers who can be productive in society.
That is a large portion of a willing population who are rendered useless by the delay of the Federal DREAM Act. Ten years have passed where the nation could have seen economic growth from increased higher education and tax contributions. The nation has wasted valuable time because of the opponent’s fixation on the privileges of Americans.
“A pathway to legal status is really beyond its time” added Stumo.
American citizens have just as much to gain as the undocumented population in financial growth. It is not the time to be self-righteous in this economic downturn.
The Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation are federal agencies that estimate a $2.3 billion increase in government tax revenues over the next ten years if the Federal DREAM Act passed legislation. Additionally, they estimate a $1.4 billion reduction in deficits in the same period of time.
This increased fiscal contribution would reimburse the required investment in financial aid within a few years and continue to provide profit for the government.
The University of California Los Angeles conducted a study called No DREAMers Left Behind that explored the economic potential of the Federal DREAM Act. Research shows that between $1.4 trillion and $3.6 trillion in taxable income would procure for the economy over 40 years. This is based on at least 825,000 beneficiaries of the Federal DREAM Act obtaining citizenship.
In short, if just over half of the 1.5 million undocumented students pursue higher education and become successful workers, the government would gain trillions in taxable income. This would stimulate the economy from added jobs and reduce poverty in America.
Tax revenue is not the only economic prospect that is made available by the Federal DREAM Act. Education brings a pool of skilled workers who could potentially fulfill needed jobs.
According to the Los Angeles Times, there will be an estimated six percent gap between skilled workers and jobs needed by 2025. These jobs include pivotal positions such as teachers, nurses and service members.
This figure applies to California alone. The California version of the DREAM Act is expected to help close that gap by allowing undocumented students to pursue higher education.
The DREAM Act has the potential to be responsible for several benefits that would outweigh transitory costs in financial aid.
Allowing undocumented minors to pursue an education would motivate them to graduate high school, therefore lowering dropout rates. More high school graduates would produce more students in higher education. These beneficiaries of the Federal DREAM Act would go on to be productive members of society and contribute to government resources.
As a result, poverty levels would decrease therefore, expenses from government assistance and social services would decrease. Furthermore, the influx of skilled workers from the DREAM Act would free undocumented students from working illegally for cash and bring them into the legal workforce. This would close the gap between needed jobs and qualified workers.
It is clear that education is a crucial element to a financially sound nation.
It is an injustice that this potential economic growth is stifled because of the opposition’s concern for a student’s immigration status. Education is the pipeline to generate productive members of society and it should not matter where those individuals were born. The national economic benefit is worth the opponents swallowing their American pride.
“I see this as one of the most important topics right now, both from higher education and public policy as well.” said Stumo
The shelf life for blind patriotism has expired in our economic turmoil. When the DREAM Act is passed, may we reclaim the pursuit of knowledge as an inalienable human right and mobilize educated individuals, regardless of their origin.
To sign the 2011 Dream Act Petition, visit http://www.dreamact.com
Categories: Student Life