The State Legislature this week approved free tuition for illegal immigrants and certain out-of-state residents, over the objections of Assemblyman Andy Goodell (R,C,I Jamestown) and Senator Cathy Young (R,C,I Olean). The legislation was immediately signed by Governor Cuomo.
The legislation, entitled the DREAM Act, is a nightmare for New York taxpayers, said Goodell. Rather than increase State financial support for SUNY Fredonia, JCC, and other colleges and universities across the State, this legislation will give away millions of dollars in free tuition to those who pay no New York income taxes.
Under federal law, illegal immigrants cannot lawfully work in the United States and cannot be issued a social security number. Thus, illegal immigrants who work illegally in New York State pay no State income taxes. Under the DREAM Act, however, these illegal immigrants would be entitled to free college education at taxpayer expense.
To add insult to injury, the amount of tuition assistance to lawful New York residents is based on their income, as reported on their income tax returns. Since illegal immigrants do not report any of their illegal income, they are entitled to the maximum amount of tuition assistance under this bill. The children of law abiding New Yorkers who properly report and pay their income tax have their tuition assistance reduced or eliminated based on their parents income levels.
In addition to providing the maximum funding for illegal immigrants, the DREAM ACT removed the requirement that students be New York residents at the time they apply for tuition assistance. As long as the student graduated from a New York State high school within five years, they would be eligible for free tuition even if they and their parents had moved to another state after the student graduated from high school.
Thus, students and their parents who now lived in another State, are registered to vote in another State, have a drivers license issued in another State, and pay income taxes to another State, would still be eligible for free tuition at the expense of New York taxpayers.
Unfortunately, the bill even extends free tuition to foreign students who never lived in New York State, as long as they took a New York GED examine. The GED exam is open for any foreign student after being in New York State for just 30 days. Thus, a student could graduate from a foreign high school at the top of their class, come to New York, take the New York GED, and be eligible for four years of free tuition before returning to their own country.
These glaring problems with the bill were brought to the attention of the Majority several times in the past, but completely ignored, noted Goodell. Now that both the State Assembly and Senate are firmly under Majority control, these poorly drafted laws are being rammed through the legislature without any amendments and very little public notice, and immediately signed by Governor Cuomo.
In the meantime, base financial aid to JCC and SUNY Fredonia has seriously lagged behind their needs, resulting in severe fiscal stress to these local colleges. Although more students will receive free tuition, the amount of funding provided to our colleges and universities is woefully inadequate, said Goodell.
The priority of New York State should be to support our State colleges and universities with the funding they need to provide New York residents with a high quality education, rather than to extend free tuition to illegal immigrants, out-of-state residents, and foreign students who pay nothing in New York State income taxes, concluded Goodell.