Speaker Heastie (photo: Lori Van Buren)
Dear Speaker Carl Heastie:
A few weeks ago, you shared your initial priorities as the new Assembly Speaker. It was refreshing to see you focus on expanding access to opportunity for all of New York's youth, including the thousands of undocumented students who deserve a fair chance at going to college. We, the College Access Consortium of New York (CACNY), a network of over 100 professionals representing community-based organizations, colleges, and secondary schools, stand by you in fighting for the NY DREAM Act this session.
The American Dream is based upon the principle of equal opportunity for all. However, making that dream a reality for thousands of first generation college students cannot wait another year. According to USA Today, of the more than five million first generation low-income students, only 11 percent will earn a college degree.
In May of 2011 the NY DREAM Act was introduced to level the playing field for the children of undocumented immigrants. This idea builds upon bipartisan legislation passed over a decade ago by Governor Pataki that granted in-state tuition rates to undocumented youth. At its core, the NY DREAM Act is key for thousands of youth across the state to obtain post-secondary opportunities by allowing them access to state financial aid, just like any other student proudly walking across the stage at their high school graduation or dancing at their senior prom.
As college access and success professionals, members of the CACNY community know that unequal access to the Tuition Assistance Program and other forms of state aid can be the proverbial 'straw that breaks the camel's back,' preventing an otherwise willing and capable student from accessing and succeeding in college and subsequently contributing to the workforce of our state.
As a fellow New York City native, I have seen first-hand the negative educational and economic impact that delaying the NY DREAM Act for four years has had on our communities. In solidarity with our fellow CACNY members, we express our collective support and desire that your efforts this year will yield a different outcome.
by Felipe Ayala Jr., Chair of the College Access Consortium of New York