Will Presidential Politics Trump Fairness and Justice for Undocumented Immigrant High School Graduates? Is the Governor Sacrificing Undocumented Immigrant Students for Personal Ambition?

The path to the middle class leads through post-secondary education: a trade school, a community or a 4-year college. President Obama convened a community college summit in Washington this week.

In an increasingly competitive world economy, America’s economic strength depends upon the education and skills of its workers. In the coming years, jobs requiring at least an associate degree are projected to grow twice as fast as those requiring no college experience. To meet this need, President Obama set two national goals: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world, and community colleges will produce an additional 5 million graduates.

Attending college costs money and for many of our kids paying rent and putting food on the table precludes paying college tuition. There are a range of programs to support high school graduates, both grant and loan programs to assist in paying for college.

To access the grants/loans students must file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application. The form is enormously complex, perhaps as complex as the Affordable Care Act application form. The Center for NYC Affairs has published a wonderful guide for families and students,

We have … created a new website for educators and families available atwww.understandingfafsa.org. The website features PDFs of the guide in English and Spanish as well as a presentation version suitable for classrooms and large groups. Print copies are available while supplies last. Please go to http://www.freefafsaguide.com to order.

There is a substantial glitch: undocumented students are not eligible for financial aid – aid is available at some private colleges.

New York State provides grants through the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), except for undocumented students,

The New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) helps eligible New York residents pay tuition at approved schools in New York State … annual TAP award can be up to $5,000. Because TAP is a grant, it does not have to be paid back.

TAP is available for students attending SUNY, CUNY and not-for-profit independent degree-granting colleges on a part-time basis. To be eligible for TAP, you must:
 Be a United States citizen or eligible noncitizen
 Be a legal resident of New York State

You may ask, didn’t New York State pass a Dreamer Act that would allow undocumented students access TAP, the answer: no, and the reason, Governor Cuomo does not support the bill, that’s right, the leading liberal candidate for the presidency, a governor who supports a wide range of liberal causes does not support opening a pathway to college for undocumented students who have graduated from high school and met the admissions requirements for college. Unbelievable!

Around the state youth organizations are mobilizing to lobby the legislature and the governor.

Over a year ago Governor Cuomo formed a blue-ribbon 25-member panel, the Cuomo Commission on Education Reform. The Commission held hearings around the state, issued a preliminary report and, four months after the expected date released their final report; without fanfare, almost in the middle of the night, the tepid report supported early childhood education, merit pay for teachers and called for a ballot imitative approving a $2-billion bond issue to purchase technology.

There was no mention of the pitiable graduation rates of English Language learners or support for the Dreamer Act.

* The graduate rate in NYS is 74%, only 34% of ELLs
* The college and career readiness rate is 35%, only 7% for ELLs
* The grade 3-8 ELA scores on the 2013 state test was 33% passing, only 3% for ELLs.

However, there are highly successful models in the state. The fourteen International High Schools in New York City, public high schools that only accept students who have been in country four years or less have a 64% graduation rate – twice the rate of ELLs around the state.

Part of the problem is the State Education Department; the regulations governing the education of English Language learners are basically unchanged for the last thirty years. The Department has been trying to rewrite the regulations for over a year – advocates are sharply critical of the drafts (i.e., compliance regs written by lawyers).

The governor’s callous disregard for students who have struggled through high school, passed courses and Regents exams, and gained acceptance to college is incomprehensible.

The State Education Department must accept the Italian proverb, Il pesce puzza dalla testa, the successes are schools that have created their own models, schools that have basically shunned the rigid, compliance-based state regulations.

As you leaf through the names of the 2014 Intel Competition semi-finalists you see name after name of students who are immigrants or children of immigrants – they are the future of America, as they have always been. To place obstacles in the path of a next generation of scientists, entrepreneurs and artists is fool-hearty and short-sighted.

4 responses to “Will Presidential Politics Trump Fairness and Justice for Undocumented Immigrant High School Graduates? Is the Governor Sacrificing Undocumented Immigrant Students for Personal Ambition?

  1. You are referring to the “republican” Governor of New York as the leading liberal (unannounced) candidate for the Presidency in 2016. Governor Cuomo who was effectively unopposed in his last election has stayed in the center on most issues. He has never been put in a position where he has to take a principled stand for anything and risk being attacked from one flank or the other of electorate. I presume that this will continue to be his posture as he prepares (assuming Hillary doesn’t run) to make a try for the Democratic Party nomination.

    It is a sad commentary on our politics that we no longer debate issues, and that politicians run with their finger testing the wind rather than on a principled position. We accept this as the norm and a smaller and smaller portion of the electorate votes each year. That is how we get thugs like Christie and DINOs like Cuomo.

    DeBlasio is unique and the current media darling because he ran on a Progressive platform and seems to be ready to try to implement it. The press is no longer sure how to respond to a politician who speaks his mind and means what he says. Would that there were more of them.


  2. Foil Jacqueline

    Once again I thought your article & Marc Korashon’s response were right on the money!!


  3. Eric Nadelstern

    Thanks for surfacing and shedding light on this important issue. The undocumented are our children too.


  4. Where are the petitions to sign? This is a tragic situation for too many bright, ambitious and innocent young students.


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