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Maryland’s Tuition Equity Law

A few months ago we had reported that right before the 2011 legislative session ended, Maryland lawmakers had managed to pass a bill that would allow certain undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates at state community colleges—an initiative we, as Floridians who lack such measure, admired. With this fantastic achievement, Maryland had joined the ranks of 11 other states that had accomplished the same advancement for those living in their state. Unfortunately, opponents of this measure were stern in their intent to quash this law, and gathered enough signatures to do just that. As of now, the law has been suspended and there will be a referendum in November, for which Maryland’s Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, an advocate for affordable higher education, has asked for voters to consider the contributions these students make and the high value that it is worth having all Maryland residents educated.

Maryland’s tuition equity law granted in-state tuition to students who had gone to state high schools for at least three years and who could prove they paid taxes. Because of its potential positive outcome, there is an outpouring of support coming from state leaders, clergy, unions, and even the president of the University of Maryland and Baltimore County with the aim of keeping this law alive. The Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown has even gone as far as to ask voters to consider the untapped potential of these students when he gave a speech of which some highlights follow: ” [These] could be the person[s] who cure cancer or help bring about advances in civil rights or lead us to energy independence. But without the Maryland Dream Act, this will deny them the opportunity to reach their potential.” To date apart from Maryland, eleven other states, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Utah, Texas, and Washington permit qualifying undocumented students to pay in-state tuition as their classmates at public colleges and universities.

Notice that among those on the list are included states that have recently attempted to issue state immigration enforcement law such as Texas and Utah, yet even they acknowledge the power and importance of having an educated workforce. While we vehemently hope that Maryland critics of this law come to their senses before completely repealing this law, we also believe that other states should take this as an example that a middle ground can be reached even with such a hot and divisive issue. Florida lawmakers should see past their differences in politics and issue an immigration law that is in accordance with the state’s greater good.

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