Updated Jan 22, 2013 18:00
Originally Published Jan 22, 2013 14:09
Staff Writer

Pennsylvania's undocumented students may be closer to living the American dream.

Thanks to legislation crafted by a local lawmaker.

State Sen. Lloyd Smucker on Tuesday formally rolled out a bill that grants an in-state tuition discount to young immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents.

The West Lampeter Republican said be developed the legislation after talking with area students who have good grades, but couldn't go to college — or even apply — because it would compromise their residence.

"Young people who graduate from our high schools have established a presence here, and we have made an investment in them," Smucker said.

Under the proposal, individuals must offer proof of having attended at least two years of high school and must meet all Commonwealth residency requirements for financial aid. If admitted to college, the students would then be charged the lower in-state tuition rate.

"They are part of our future, so it only makes sense to lower barriers to additional educational advancement and achievement," the lawmaker said. "The more education they attain, the better positioned they are to become contributing citizens."

Although the bill offers a pathway to higher education, it does not offer an option for permanent residency.

"Pennsylvania increasingly represents opportunity for people from many different places, and this seems a practical incentive to offer those who are working and studying to make their way in our Commonwealth," Smucker said.

He said the bill has the potential to expand the pool of skilled workers and prospective job creators.

"We limit our capacity to grow if we deny opportunities to intelligent and industrious young people because of actions their parents took years ago," he said.

Smucker's legislation is based on Maryland's Dream Act, which was approved by the legislature in 2011 and then upheld overwhelmingly in a ballot referendum in the November 2012 election.

He said the bill does not reduce admission standards for individuals, nor does it guarantee them a spot.

"It merely removes a significant financial penalty that prevents some highly capable students from pursuing higher education," he said.

Smucker bill would grant some undocumented immigrants in-state tuition status - News