At the CASA multicultural center in Hyattsville, Democratic candidate for governor Ben Jealous pledged Wednesday to provide free community college to all the young, undocumented immigrants in Maryland known as DREAMers.
The expansion of Jealous’ plan to offer tuition-free community college to all Maryland residents would cost about $3 million a year, the candidate said. But he argued the cost is well worth it because a better educated population could boost Maryland’s annual gross domestic product by $1.6 billion.
“The immigrants in your family tree may not have always had their papers lined up but all made contributions to make us as strong a nation as we are now,” Jealous said. “How can you deny the opportunity for other immigrants whose parents may not have had their papers lined up?”
More than 8,000 Maryland residents are currently protected from deportation under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. Created in 2012, the program grants work permits to undocumented immigrants who came to the country as minors.
Jealous said he estimates about 700 DACA recipients would enroll in his free community college program.
The campaign of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan noted that DACA recipients are already eligible for tuition-free community college under legislation the governor signed this year, if they meet certain requirements of the state’s College Promise scholarship program. The program requires students must achieve at least a 2.3 GPA and includes a means test, so that scholarships don’t go to teens from families than earn more than $150,000 a year.
Hogan has pledged to expand the College Promise scholarships to include four-year Maryland colleges and universities for qualified students.
At his news conference, Jealous took aim at Hogan’s proposals as half-measures.
“The governor keeps moving to the left because he’s worried about his chances for re-election,” the Democrat said. “And yet he has failed to put a plan on the table to make sure every child in Maryland can get a high-quality education.”
Asked why Jealous believes the state should eliminate a means test for free college tuition, the Democrat said he believes it’s only fair because he plans to increase taxes on the rich to pay for his plan.
“It would only be fair because it’s going to be the millionaires of Maryland who help pay for it,” Jealous said. “The bottom line is our proposals will cover everybody’s kids. [Hogan’s] will not.”
Scott Sloofman, a spokesman for the Hogan campaign, said the governor’s plans are more responsible than his challenger’s.
“The truth is that Jealous cannot come close to paying for the tens of billions of dollars of stuff he is giving away already, so Marylanders cannot take any of his proposals seriously,” Sloofman said. “Governor Hogan, on the other hand, is taking responsible and affordable steps to expand higher education opportunities through community college scholarships for those who need it most and his proposal to make college loan interest 100 percent tax deductible.”