(MintPress) – Legislation helping 3,500 undocumented youth attend college cleared a major hurdle Tuesday after receiving approval from the New York State Assembly Higher Education Committee. The New York Dream Act has yet to be enacted, but could be signed into law before the end of the 2013 legislative session.
There are 3,500 college aged, undocumented youth in New York State who are academically eligible to enter institutions of higher learning, but are unable to do so because of financial constraints.
24 State Senators and 58 Assembly members have signed on as co-sponsors to the legislation reflecting strong constituent support for a bill that would provide funding to help eligible students attend college in New York state.
A growing coalition of more than 50 faith based groups, labor unions, and immigrant rights organizations have signed on in support of the legislation, a sign that support for the legislation is growing across the Empire State, home to approximately 650,000 undocumented immigrants.
Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the New York State Assembly, introduced the New York Dream Act during the previous legislative session August 2012. However it was this week that the bill passed its first major test after receiving approval from the Higher Education Committee. The bill will have to be passed by both the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly before Governor Cuomo can sign it into law.
New York State could reinforce the action of individual schools outside New York that have already established programs for undocumented students to attend college. the University of California Berkeley created an Undocumented Student Program December 2012, allocating $1 million to help students attend the Northern California university.
There are now 200 undocumented students from 20 different countries at Berkeley. Even though the funding for the program comes from anonymous private sources, critics worry that public institutions will begin to use taxpayer funding to finance the education of undocumented students.
The cost of a college education has increased markedly for all students in recent years. According to the College board, the average yearly cost of in-state tuition at a 4 year public school is $8,655. Tuition at 4 year private schools is considerably higher, at $29,056.
Since 1978, the price of tuition at U.S. colleges has increased over 900 percent, making it virtually impossible to students to graduate without student debt.
Student debt reached a record $1 trillion dollars in 2012, surpassing combined credit card debt in the U.S. Students now graduate with an average of $24,000 in debt.