The “Dream Act” that Maryland voters approved in November is actually raising the cost of education for some students in Montgomery County.
Undocumented Montgomery County high school students who haven’t yet graduated but want to take college courses at Montgomery College to get ahead will have to pay roughly triple the rate their peers do.
That’s because wording in the act grants in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants who, among other conditions, have graduated from a Maryland high school.
But students who take concurrent enrollment courses through Montgomery College are still in high school and thus don’t qualify for the reduced rate. The students most impacted are those in programs such as College Institute, which allows students to take classes taught by Montgomery College faculty for college credit on their high school campuses. Students generally pay more than $400 for a College Institute class, but now undocumented students will pay more than $1,200.
Montgomery College has to follow the letter of the law, but hopes to work with Montgomery County Public Schools and legislators on a solution, said Elizabeth Homan, a spokeswoman for the college.
Some parents in Montgomery County, however, have been working on a way to raise money to help students who would otherwise be taking classes through Montgomery College but can’t afford the cost. The parents attended a Montgomery County Public Schools budget hearing a few weeks ago, expressing their concerns. The parents hope fundraisers can bridge the gap for students until legislation fixes the loophole.
It’s unclear exactly how many Montgomery County high school students will be impacted by the law, but Montgomery College officials estimate it could be up to nearly 80 students this semester.
Montgomery County Board of Education member Rebecca Smondrowski has been working with Del. Anne Kaiser (D-14) on a bill that would amend the Dream Act to address the issue. But a fix in Annapolis may not be easy.
Brad Botwin,director of Help Save Maryland, which opposed the act, said he and others would be opposed to allowing high school students in-state tuition benefits if they are not in the country legally.