Maryland voters affirmed Tuesday night that undocumented immigrants should be allowed to attend public universities and pay in-state tuition, while Oklahomans declared that affirmative action should be barred in education and other public settings.
The DREAM Act was a solid winner in Maryland, taking 59 percent of the vote. The electorate upheld a bill passed by the state legislature in 2011 that allows illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition to attend the state’s public universities and colleges. Opponents sought to overturn it via popular vote, but those efforts fell short at the ballot box.
According to Insider Higher Ed, the measure is expected to affect about 435 students in every Maryland graduating high school class. Estimates have placed the cost to the state at $3.5 million, though supporters argue that better educated graduates will eventually make more money and pay more in taxes, which will offset those costs.
“For students, it means that they can get an education, they can figure out how to pay for college,” Roberto Juarez, a campaign coordinator with the United Dream Network, which supported the act, told Inside Higher Ed. “Especially for students finishing community college and trying to figure out how to go to a four-year college, it makes it something they can achieve; it’s no longer just a dream.”
Maryland is one of 11 states (along with California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin) to have passed some version of the DREAM Act.
In Oklahoma, voters decided to ban any form of affirmative action in college admissions, public hiring or awarding of government contracts by 59 percent to 41 percent margin. The initiative allows exceptions when affirmative action considerations are necessary to secure federal funding. The policy’s impacts are expected to be minimal, according to the Associated Press, although it could have an effect on college scholarships for women and minorities.
The popular vote echoes support in the state legislature, which voted to put the initiative on the ballot.
"The only way we're going to get past racism and get people not to see the color difference is to get our government to lead by example," State Sen. Rob Johnson, who sponsored the proposal in the legislature, said last month, according to the AP.