Wednesday, the state's Senate Education Committee held a public hearing on SB 713 known as the Pennsylvania Dream Act.
The bill would allow undocumented students who have graduated from a Pennsylvania high school or have received a GED to pay in-state tuition rates at state colleges.
Right now, undocumented students are required to pay out-of-state and sometimes international tuition rates in order to attend school which can cost two to three times the cost of in-state tuition.
The bill was introduced in March by Republican Senator Lloyd Smucker of West Lampeter Township in Lancaster County.
“No matter the heritage, no matter the language spoken, what I find is that there is a common understanding among these families of the value of education and a common desire for their children to lead productive lives. The Dream Act or Senate bill 713 erases a huge financial obstacle that we currently have in place for undocumented students” said Smucker.
“Has anyone quantified what the additional cost might be to the state if this were fully implemented?” asked democratic Senator Rob Teplitz.
Smucker answered the number of students who would apply and begin paying in-state tuition would outweigh those who are currently paying out-of-state costs, therefore creating a net gain for state universities.
“It's not a case of throwing money at folks who just expect benefits which is one of the things critics of this bill contend” said Smucker “In many cases, in most cases their families and even the students themselves at times have jobs, are working and they're paying taxes here in Pennsylvania.”
The next step is for the education committee to vote on the bill which will then go for a full vote in the Senate.
The last time a similar bill was introduced in the general assembly, it never came up for a vote.