A Maryland ballot question to allow in-state tuition rates for some illegal immigrants would bring more money into the state rather than increasing the burden on taxpayers, according to a study released Monday.
The study by the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research found that the state’s Dream Act — which passed the General Assembly last year but was forced to referendum by voters — would generate as much as $66 million a year for the state and businesses by providing better access to education for illegal immigrants, which would in turn help them to secure high-paying jobs and pay more taxes.
“The initial costs of the investment in education will be more than offset by increased tax revenues and lower government spending on incarceration and other government programs that result from a more educated citizenry,” the study said.
Opponents of the Dream Act have argued that the law would attract illegal immigrants to the state and lead to a run on college enrollment, which would leave taxpayers footing the bill.
The law would allow college-age illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates if they graduated from a Maryland high school after three years of attendance, and if they or a guardian filed income-tax returns each year during that span.
Students would start at a two-year community college before transferring to a four-year institution.
The study found that the Dream Act would initially cost the state and its counties a combined $7.2 million a year, but they would eventually earn back $24.6 million in tax benefits and savings. Additionally, private businesses would eventually earn $42 million in annual benefits from a larger, better-educated workforce.
According to the analysis, 435 students would attend college each year under the law, with most attending community colleges and just 102 studying at the state’s four-year universities.
Delegate Patrick L. McDonough, a Baltimore County Republican, cast doubts on the study Monday and said he thinks more than 1,000 students a year could eventually take part in the program, which he said could raise costs to $40 million a year.
Mr. McDonough, who has helped lead efforts to defeat the Dream Act, also disputed the legality of allowing illegal immigrants to work even if they use the program to earn a degree.
President Obama issued an executive action this summer allowing young illegal immigrants to apply for work permits, but Mr. McDonough predicted that the policy won’t hold up to legal challenges and future presidential administrations. He also contended that any jobs that do go to illegal immigrants would unfairly come at the expense of citizens.
“When you do that, you’re committing a felony,” Mr. McDonough said. “The whole idea that these folks are going to be hired as career workers is a fallacy.”