SUNY Trustees Support Tuition Aid for Illegal Immigrants

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State University of New York trustees unanimously approved on Wednesday a resolution supporting a plan to offer state-sponsored tuition assistance, grants and scholarships to college-bound illegal immigrants who want to enroll in state schools.

“The current demographic realities of New York State indicate that many of the brightest and hardest-working students eligible to enroll at SUNY are of undocumented status, and it is imperative that SUNY remain accessible to these students,” H. Carl McCall, chairman of the board of trustees, said in a statement.

The resolution adds the State University of New York to the growing roster of supporters for several bills circulating in Albany that would extend financial benefits to illegal immigrants, toppling what has perhaps been their greatest barrier to acquiring a college diploma.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the New York City Council, the City University system and New York University recently threw their support behind the cause; in December, the state’s Education Department sent its own proposal to the Legislature.

Giving illegal immigrants access to tuition aid has been a long-standing goal of immigration advocates across the country. They continue to push Congress to approve a broader piece of legislation known as the Dream Act, which would give certain illegal immigrants who came to the United States at a young age a path to citizenship if they meet certain criteria.

The groups have also moved to lobby states with large immigrant populations, like California, to make access to tuition assistance the law.

“While Washington remains paralyzed,” said Chung-Wha Hong, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, “New York will uphold its tradition as a welcoming place for immigrants and move forward to do what it can to bring justice to these young people, allow them to pursue their education, and stop letting such talent and promise go unfulfilled.”

The proposal by the Education Department assumes that just 5 percent of the estimated 4,550 high school graduates in the state whose parents are illegal immigrants will choose to attend public colleges in New York.