Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee
JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT ASSISTING STUDENTS ACCEPTED INTO THE DEFERRED ACTION FOR CHILDHOOD ARRIVALS PROGRAM WITH THE COST OF COLLEGE.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Senator Looney, 11th District
REASONS FOR BILL:
This bill is intended to provide students who have been accepted into the federal government's deferred action for childhood arrivals program with certain types of financial assistance, in regards to attending an institution of higher education within the state.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
George Jepsen, Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General:
Attorney General Jepsen submitted written testimony in support of S.B 398, stating that although the legislature passed a law in 2011 allowing some undocumented students to receive in-state tuition at Connecticut institutions, “the high cost of a college education continues to pose a barrier to countless undocumented students.” Consequently, Attorney General Jepsen sees this as harming our state's economy and hindering the state's education equity goals.
Attorney General Jepsen goes on to point out that, in order for states to offer financial aid to undocumented students, federal law requires them to pass state laws allowing for these students to be eligible for that aid. He cites Texas, New Mexico, California, Illinois, Minnesota, and Washington, as all having passed laws allowing for this to take place. He believes Connecticut should follow in these states' footsteps because “it will further the important goals the legislature previously embraced when it made undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition – namely, economic growth and educational equity.”
Werner Oyanadel, Executive Director, Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission:
Mr. Oyanadel testified in support of S.B 398, claiming the state would not accrue extra costs by providing state financial aid to undocumented immigrants. Accordingly, he cites preliminary information provided by the Office of Fiscal Analysis, showing “existing funds would simply be spread across a larger population of students.”
Although Mr. Oyanadel is in favor of S.B 398, he strongly urges the committee to expand the bill by including a larger population of students who are in need of financial assistance. Furthermore, Mr. Oyanadel suggests the committee add an amendment to the bill, which is also suggested in the Governor's Bill No. 6844 that would “reduce the requirements for in-state tuition rates from four years to two years of high school within Connecticut.” He argues that this amendment would not add extra cost to the state. Subsequently, he claims “[t]he University of Connecticut and the Connecticut State University System have policies or the ability to adjust the ratio of in-state to out-of-state students and therefore can make charging in-state tuition to persons without legal immigration status who reside in Connecticut revenue neutral. The Regional Community-Technical Colleges as far as data can tells us have no such persons paying out-of-state tuition and therefore it is also anticipated reducing the number of years required for in-state tuition from 4 to 2 years as having no fiscal impact at all.”
Wayne Locust, Vice-President of Enrollment Planning & Management, UConn:
Mr. Locust testified in support of S.B 398, acknowledging that current statues limit the universities ability to award financial aid to undocumented students, which ultimately “limits access to higher education in [Connecticut].” Although UConn has not fully conducted an analysis of the legislation's financial impact, the university realizes that funds are already limited and the bill's expansion may further increase the demand for financial assistance. Therefore, Mr. Locust states UConn's interest “in collaborating with the General Assembly to address the financial commitment that Senate Bill 398 would require.”
Alok Bhatt, Legislative Analyst, Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission:
Mr. Bhatt testified in support of S.B 398, every student should be presented with the opportunity of pursuing a higher education. Although federal immigration policy seems to be inflexible within Congress, Mr. Bhatt states “we in Connecticut must recognize the rights of all people in our state. We must enable all students to advance themselves, and ultimately be able to contribute positively on local and global levels.”
Erika Steiner, Chief Financial Officer, Board of Regents for Higher Education:
Ms. Steiner testified in opposition to S.B 398, citing concerns related to the fiscal impact the bill may have on Connecticut institutions. Although the Board of Regents is in favor of what the legislation is trying to accomplish, it believes S.B 398 “as a sole remedy to the issue of providing [DACA] students with financial aid, opens up the current tuition set aside without providing any additional funding, and will have a negative fiscal impact to our institutions.” According to Ms. Steiner, the students who would be eligible under this legislation are believed to have “a level of unmet financial need significantly higher than our current system average.” Subsequently, because of this increased need and because institutions already lack the necessary funding, Ms. Steiner believes extending financial aid to all DACA students “would result in fewer students being served.” Ultimately, this decrease in students receiving financial aid would result in both lower enrollment and retention.
Along with the potential negative side-effects of enrollment, Ms. Steiner claims the inability of many DACA students to provide information necessary for financial aid, such as “easy verification of family income … or federal tax returns,” would result in “significant administrative burdens” when determining a student's financial needs.
In order to calculate the potential costs of this legislation, Ms. Steiner made certain assumptions: “1) that all applications for DACA status received by the Federal Government from Connecticut were ultimately approved (given the approval rate is around 99%, this assumption is reasonable), 2) that 50% of the population enrolled at Connecticut Community Colleges, 3) that the students enrolled full time, and 4) that 100% of their needs must be met through financial aid.” Accordingly, Ms. Steiner concluded that all this added together would total an estimated cost of $9,792,489. She goes on to claim that the calculation is at the higher end of what the financial impact may be.
In order to gain a better sense of the potential fiscal side-effects of this legislation, Ms. Steiner spoke with representatives from Texas, New Mexico, and Washington – states which have passed legislation, allowing certain undocumented immigrants to receive financial aid. She argues that “each state indicated similar troubles in estimating fiscal impact beforehand, but each state also determined that, once students began utilizing the programs, there was indeed an impact. In each state, funding was appropriated by the legislature to cover these costs.”
Rather than pass S.B 398, Ms. Steiner believes H.B 6845 – a bill that would set aside funds from the Governor's Scholarship Program to a third-party organization – would be a more preferable option for two reasons: 1) “it caps the amount of aid awarded to the amount described, which would result in a knowable number of students served by the program” and 2) “it places the burden of administration of the program on an outside party, and makes an allowance for those costs.” However, she claims there would still be a potentially large gap between student's need and awarded aid. Furthermore, because funding for H.B 6845 would be taken from the Governor's Scholarship Program, fewer students eligible for aid would be served.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Senator Martin M. Looney, 11th District:
Senator Looney testified in support of S.B 398, acknowledging the positive impact that PA 11-43 has had on allowing DACA students to receive in-state tuition. However, he believes there are many are undocumented students in Connecticut who would benefit tremendously from S.B 398. In doing so, it would provide more students with the opportunity to receive a higher education. Senator Looney cites Vice Chancellor of the California Community College System, who stated that “[t]he higher the number of degree-holders living in our state, the more likely we are to meet future workforce demands.” Senator Looney went on to add that “DACA students' tuition provides some of the [financial aid and grant dollars] and it seems equitable that they should also benefit from the program.”
CT Students for a DREAM:
CT Students for a DREAM (C4D) testified in support of S.B 398, stating that the 2011 legislation that provided in-state tuition to some undocumented students was “an important first step toward increasing access to higher education,” but that more needs to be done in order to ensure access for all undocumented students in the state. By expanding eligibility to state financial aid, C4D believes it will “[improve] high school graduation rates and [increase] college matriculation.” Furthermore, it will bolster state revenue, “in the short term through tuition … in the long term as the higher incomes of these college graduates translate to increase taxes each year.”
Ray Rossomando, Legislative Coordinator, Connecticut Education Association:
Mr. Rossomando testified in support of S.B 398, citing Connecticut's educated workforce as playing a significant role in its competitive advantage. However, college students have begun enrolling at institutions within other states and end up staying there. Accordingly, Mr. Rossomando states “[a]t a time when the state's need for competitive graduates is at an all-time high, we should be dismantling hurdles that diminish access to our public institutions of higher education.” By providing undocumented students with greater access to financial aid, he believes the expansion “will go a long way” and will ultimately “lead to a better Connecticut.”
John DeStefano JR., Former Mayor of New Haven:
Mr. DeStefano testified in support of S.B 398, citing initiatives that the City of New Haven had taken while he was mayor, in order to “grow wealth and enable the social and economic mobility of [New Haven's] residents.” Although New Haven Promise works toward providing students within the State University and college system with “substantial benefits,” and gives a stipend for students of private institutions, Mr. DeStefeno claims a “gap in meeting the cost of their education [remains].” By passing S.B 398, he believes that gap will be diminished.
Mr. DeStefano goes on to discuss the inability to distinguish between documented and undocumented students when it comes to “academic achievement, speech, dress, and in the kinds of struggles youth engage in as they grow up.” However, the difference between these students lies within the fact that documented students go on to enroll in Connecticut institutions, with full access to financial aid, while undocumented students “work full time while taking one or two classes, working slowly towards completing their degrees.” Subsequently, with the passage of S.B 398, undocumented students will be provided with “equality in education.”
Mariano Cardoso, Student, Central Connecticut State University:
Ms. Cardoso testified in support of S.B 398, claiming financial aid as being an essential component in students being able to complete a higher education. By denying students the opportunity to progress beyond high school, Ms. Cardoso argues “everything invested by the public school system or the state into that undocumented student will not truly pay its dividends; the investment would be truly wasted.”
Maria Melchor, Student, Yale University:
Ms. Melchor testified in support of S.B 398, citing her own inability to apply for the University of Connecticut's Day of Pride Scholarship, which she was nominated for as a senior in high school. She went on to add that “[g]overnment action is needed so that promising, hard working students, regardless of residency status, are not denied access to the financial aid they deserve and need.”
Daniel Hamidi, Student, Yale University:
Mr. Hamidi testified in support of S.B 398, stating that DACA students are “extremely socioeconomically disadvantaged” and education is what will help lift them out of poverty. Accordingly, Mr. Hamidi references the correlation between greater access to education and an increase in economic prosperity. He goes on to remark that “[a]s the state with the highest achievement gap, Connecticut needs to ensure that its minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups have opportunities to acquire advanced, high-paying jobs.”
MEChA de Yale:
MECha de Yale submitted written testimony in support of S.B 398, citing similar remarks made by other supporters of the bill regarding the positive role undocumented students will play in the future of Connecticut, if they are awarded greater access to financial aid.
Christian L., New Haven:
Mr. L testified in support of S.B 398, hoping to one day be eligible for financial aid, so that he can pursue his degree in business administration. As of now, he is pursuing his G.E.D, while also “paying for [his] own rent, transport, and books, including supporting [his] parents who depend on [him] for financial support.” Furthermore, he believes by being eligible for financial aid, he would be able to give back to his community.
Dr. H. Kenny Nienhusser, Assistant Professor, University of Hartford:
Dr. Nienhusser testified in support of S.B 398, citing extensive research he has conducted in regards to the barriers placed on undocumented students who wish to participate in higher education. According to Dr. Nienhusser, these students are ineligible for any federal financial aid, which creates a tremendous economic hardship for them. Although Connecticut has provided DACA students with an education from K-12, Dr. Nienhusser argues “the absence of state laws has prevented many students who lack citizenship status from enrolling in, persisting in, and graduating from postsecondary education.”
Will Bloom, Student, Yale Law School:
Mr. Bloom spoke in favor of S.B 398, focusing on all that undocumented students have to offer to the economic prosperity of Connecticut. According to him, “[t]hese students want to use their education to establish meaningful lives here in Connecticut. They will become engines of economic growth, they will also bolster state tax revenue.” Mr. Bloom also suggests allowing undocumented students the ability to be eligible for in-state tuition after 2 years of high school, rather than 4.
Vijay Nair, President, Connecticut State University American Association of University Professors:
President Nair submitted written testimony in support of S.B 398, claiming greater access to financial aid for undocumented immigrants will “increase racial and socioeconomic diversity in our colleges and universities.” Furthermore, he states that an investment in Connecticut students, is an investment in the state of Connecticut overall.
Gretchen Raffa, Director of Public Policy & Advocacy, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England:
Ms. Raffa testified in support of S.B 398, citing out of “the estimated 65,000 undocumented students who graduate from high school nationwide annually, only 5 percent of are able to continue to a higher education institution because of cost and a lack of financial aid.” By allowing for greater access to financial assistance, Ms. Raffa believes more undocumented students within Connecticut will be able to achieve their dream of attending college and receiving their degrees.
Carlos Espinoza, MSW:
Mr. Espinoza testified in support of S.B 398, stating that “[f]inancial assistance to undocumented students allows the state to continue their investment that started in the classrooms of elementary, middle and high schools.” Furthermore, allowing for these students to access a higher education more easily, will further benefit the future of Connecticut.
Alison Martinez-Carrasco, Student, UConn:
Ms. Martinez-Carrasco testified in support of S.B 398, claiming the current law regarding financial aid for undocumented students has made it difficult to afford college. Without any financial aid, Ms. Martinez-Carrasco has paid $23,000 over the past 4 years, in order to attend school part-time. Although she continues to attend UConn, because of her inability to receive financial aid, she plans on graduating at a slower pace than her fellow classmates.
Mark Overmyer-Velazquez, Associate Professor, UConn:
Mr. Overmyer-Velazquez testified in support of S.B 398. As a professor who works alongside undocumented students, he believes providing these students with financial aid is both ethically and economically the right thing to do.
Sister Mary Ellen Burns, Executive Director, Apostle Immigrant Services:
Ms. Burns submitted written testimony in support of S.B 398, claiming “DACA youth and their families contribute to the State's coffers: through the state income and sales taxes and through locality property taxes.”
Alexandra Brodsky, Co-Founder, Know Your IX:
Ms. Brodsky testified in support of S.B 398, stating that more access to financial aid for undocumented students “will help Connecticut meet its goal and increase racial and socioeconomic diversity in the state's colleges and universities.”
Connecticut Center for a New Economy:
Connecticut Center for a New Economy submitted written testimony in support of S.B 398, echoing remarks made by other supporters of the bill.
Nick Torres, Director of Advocacy, Junta for Progressive Action:
Mr. Torres testified in support of S.B 398, stating “[f]inancial aid for undocumented students is an investment in the future of Connecticut.”
Ingrid Alvarez, Hispanic Federation Nonprofit:
Ms. Alvarez testified in support of S.B 398, stating Hispanic Federation Nonprofit believes “the state should work to go beyond these significant first steps and grant equal access to state financial aid for all undocumented students who already qualify for in-state tuition.”
Patricia Melton, Executive Director, New Haven Promise:
Ms. Melton submitted written testimony in support of S.B 398, claiming greater access to financial aid for undocumented immigrants “will maintain our economic growth in an ever growing global and knowledge based economy.”
UNITE HERE Locals 217, 34, 35, and GESO:
UNITE HERE submitted written testimony in support of S.B 398, arguing undocumented immigrants “could be a valuable asset to the Connecticut economy and should be embraced, not hindered.”
Junior Sierra, Student, Brien McMahon High School, Norwalk, CT testified in support of the bill stating he is a dreamer, undocumented, unafraid and unashamed. His parents were granted temporary permissive status due to the natural disaster but were forced to leave him behind. Since living in the United States his parents have paid taxes, bought a home and cars. His states “my parents have pushed me, pushed my US born sister & brother to do our best. It is thanks to their investment in me that I was able to win best in the fair City Wide Science Fair to go to state and be awarded a $20,000 scholarship to University as a finalist and a recipient of a 21st Century Innovative Award for my invention. He states his parents are thinking selling a home and cars because he is not eligible to receive financial aid. He notes for those who qualify for DACA and have social security numbers can't use them because they're exclusively for work. He was told by a teacher in his junior year of high school that if he wasn't a citizen he would never have a voice in this country. He is here to prove that wrong because “I believe that all students are somebody. They deserve full equality. Right here, right now. I stand here today to ask for an equal opportunity as my peers to go to college, an opportunity to show my parents that my work is not in vein. To prove that I am somebody and to empower my siblings to go to college. The opportunity to become an engineer and contribute to Connecticut's economy. To be allowed dream”.
These people also supported the bill:
Kaela Teele, Member of the Center for Youth Leadership
Topiltzin Gomez, Student, Yale University
Jackson Beck, Student, Yale University
Camila Bortolleto, Member of CT Students for a DREAM
Samia El Osta, Social Work Intern, Wilbur Cross High School
Kimberly A. R. D'Auria, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Danbury High School
Edgardo Perez-Cabrera, Student, Naugatuck Valley Community College
Chloe Shiras, Student, Trinity College
Jacob Wasserman, Student, Yale University
Carina A. Bandhauer, Professor, Western Connecticut State University
Michael Zanger-Tishler, Student, Yale University
Gordon Plouffe, Student, Manchester Community College
Gary Mummert, New Fairfield, CT
Jiahui Hu, Student, Yale University
Jordana Gardenswartz, Student, Yale University
Laura Leon, Student, Yale University
Stefan Keller, Student, UConn
Lauren Goodman, Bethel, CT
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Reported by: Max Macelis, Assistant Clerk
March 30, 2015