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Minnesota Dream Act opens state aid to immigrant students

By Crystal Dey / Alexandria Echo Press

Starting July 1, 2013, Minnesota’s immigrant college students can follow their dreams with fewer roadblocks in their paths. Governor Mark Dayton signed the Minnesota Dream Act into law on May 20, 2013.

The Minnesota Dream Act, also referred to as the Prosperity Act, affects student tuition rates and financial aid. Students will be charged in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities if they meet certain criteria and will be eligible for state financial aid if they meet residency requirements, regardless of immigration status.

“This is not a significant change for ATCC since these students have always been accepted into the college.”

Jan Doebbert, Executive Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs, ATCC

To qualify, students must have attended a Minnesota high school for at least three years, graduated from a Minnesota high school or earned a general equivalency diploma in Minnesota, registered with the United States Selective Service (if male and between the ages of 18 to 25) and provide documentation to show they have applied for lawful immigration status if a federal process is created. Currently, a federal process does not exist.

The law does not state that a student must attend three consecutive years of high school, however, some high schools only include grades 10 through 12.

Reciprocity for students from other states does not apply under the Minnesota Dream Act. Minnesota students will benefit from the act if attending a public college or university in a neighboring state as long as they meet in-state residency requirements.

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) and the University of Minnesota will be able to use private funding as financial aid for students thanks to the new law. Alexandria Technical and Community College (ATCC) is part of the MnSCU group.

“This is not a significant change for ATCC since these students have always been accepted into the college,” said Jan Doebbert, executive vice president of academic and student affairs at ATCC.

ATCC recruits and enrolls students throughout the state and charges resident tuition rates for all students. The college will begin requesting information to ensure that students who are eligible for the Dream Act benefits are identified.

“This act continues to provide more options for ATCC to identify and support its goal of providing access to education for all students and preparing them for successful careers,” Doebbert said.

Although immigrant students are not eligible for federal aid, state aid and grant options are available. A modified Minnesota state financial aid application will be developed since the free application for federal student aid (FAFSA) requires a Social Security number.

The Minnesota Dream Act was introduced to the Senate by Senator Sandra Pappas and into the House by Representative Carlos Mariani as part of the Higher Education Omnibus bill. The Legislature passed the bill on May 17.

Additional details are available on the Minnesota Office of Higher Education’s website.

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