The Minnesota Senate has passed the “Prosperity Act” — better known as the “Dream Act” — which would allow undocumented immigrants to receive in-state tuition rates.
The bill, authored by DFL St. Paul Sen. Sandy Pappas, would also allow undocumented students to receive financial aid and scholarships if the students go to a Minnesota high school for at least three years and graduate. Students would also have to file an affidavit with their college or university pledging to apply to change their immigration status as soon as they are eligible. The bill passed off the chamber floor on a 41-23 vote, with Republican Sens. Julie Rosen, Carla Nelson and Jeremy Miller joining Democrats in voting yes.
Pappas said there are about 751 students in the state who could benefit from the proposal. At the University of Minnesota, out-of-state tuition rates are 50 percent higher than in-state rates, according to Pappas. At the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MNSCU), out-of-state rates are closer to 200 percent higher. The bill includes a $100,000 appropriation in 2014 to cover the costs associated with processing the new student aid forms in the Office of Higher Education.
Republicans unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill to remove public financial aid for undocumented immigrants. “When we are talking about public money, the taxpayers’ money, that’s where I personally draw the line,” GOP Sen. Paul Gazelka said.
DFL Sen. Melisa Franzen said she moved to Minnesota because she was offered financial aid to attend the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. “Before that I didn’t pay a dime in taxes,” she said. “We want to give an equal playing field for people who live in the state and pay taxes in this state.” The amendment failed on a 37-27 vote.
“The country and the state are moving in this direction,” DFL Sen. Patricia Torres Ray said after the vote, noting that the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce supports the bill. “We think many states will be following this because states want to retain high quality students.”
A similar proposal was blocked in 2006 by opposition from former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. The House version of the proposal, authored by Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, has stalled in committee, after House Higher Education Chairman Gene Pelowski refused to hold a hearing on the proposal.