Panel Paper: Benefit-Cost Analysis of the Maryland Dream Act

Friday, November 9, 2012 : 9:45 AM
Hopkins (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Tim Gindling and Marvin Mandell, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

One of the main policy decisions on which U.S. immigration policy currently focuses is extending in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities to undocumented immigrants who have in all other respects established residency in that state.  Thirteen states have adopted such policies, which are commonly referred to as “Dream Acts”, and several others are contemplating doing so.  However, one state (Oklahoma) has already repealed its Dream Act and a referendum regarding the Maryland Dream Act is scheduled for November.

Debates regarding the desirability of Dream Acts have largely focused on such issues as basic fairness to children who had no say in whether they moved to the U.S., on the one hand, and claims that these policies reward lawbreaking, on the other.  While these are important, if polarizing, arguments, another critical issue concerns whether such policies represent wise public investments, i.e., do their social benefits outweigh their social costs. 

In this paper we analyze the fiscal as well as social costs and benefits of the Maryland Dream Act.  Our analysis will rely on several data sets and literatures.  Specifically:

  • Our estimate of the number of individuals who qualify for in-state tuition as a result of the Dream Act will be based on the Current Population Survey.
  • Our estimate of what enrollment patterns would look like if the Dream Act is not in effect will be based on recent enrollment patterns at Maryland community colleges and four-year state colleges and universities.
  • Our estimates of the average per student fiscal and social costs of one year’s attendance at a Maryland community colleges and four-year state colleges and universities will be based on IPEDS data.
  • We will obtain estimates of changes in initial college enrollment, persistence, and degree attainment that would result from the Dream Act remaining in effect by synthesizing the literature that focuses specifically on the effect of previously enacted Dream Acts on college enrollment, supplemented by the more extensive literature on the effects of changes in college costs on initial enrollment, as well as retention and degree attainment in the general population.
  • We will obtain estimates of the value of the additional educational attainment resulting from the Dream Act by synthesizing the literature regarding the pecuniary and other returns to education.