Dream deferred in 2011

The Dream Act’s defeat wasn’t just a disappointment for immigrants, who’d hoped to make college or military service a path to legalization, writes Paul Bradley on Community College Week.

The legislation long has been a top priority of the American Association of Community Colleges and its members. The colleges educate significant and growing numbers of those who would have benefited from the DREAM Act.

With a Republican majority in the House and anti-immigrant sentiment growing, it’s not likely the Dream Act will be revived in 2011.

I think the only way to pass the DREAM Act would be to link citizenship to military service, which Americans see as a sacrifice, dropping the link to college attendance, which most see as a subsidized benefit to the individual. Many legalized veterans would end up in community colleges.

Community colleges are struggling to maintain programs, Bradley writes.  Many states are cutting higher education funding, even as more people flood into community colleges looking for job training and a cheaper route through college.

Full funding of Pell Grants, federal aid for needy college students, could be at risk.

The program received a boost at the end of 2010 when a compromise to fund federal government operations through March included funding to close a $5.7 billion funding gap for 2011. The funding will keep the maximum benefit at $5,550 per eligible student. Without the additional funding it would have meant a reduction of about $850 per student.

The program, which projects an $8 billion budget shortfall in 2012, is scheduled to receive an extra $36 billion over 10 years.  But Jerry Lewis, R-CA,  the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, is reluctant to “bail out” Pell Grants.