LANGLEY PARK, Md. (WUSA) -- Maryland voters will decide next month whether hundreds of students will be able to afford college.
Critics complain the Dream Act rewards illegal immigrants by giving them in-state tuition rates. Supporters say it's only fair to give young people some path to fulfill their dreams.
Ricardo Campos is Dreamer. "I should be given a chance to get educated, to become a doctor, and to give back to this society. Probably, I could be like saving your life in the future," he says.
His parents brought him to the US at 12. He graduated from Kennedy High School, earned straight A's at Montgomery College, was diagnosed with bone cancer at 18. "I want to save lives, just like my life was saved once."
Ricardo says he could scrape together enough money to afford in state tuition at College Park -- but says the out of state tuition charged undocumented immigrants now puts college out of reach. "The tuition now is about $28-thousand at the University of Maryland. Can you afford that. I can't. I can't afford that."
To qualify for in state tuition, students would have to have attended a Maryland high school for three years, as well as prove that their parents or themselves filed taxes. Students that qualify would have to attend a community college, but after two years, they could transfer to a four year university.
Brad Botwin is among the critics who forced the Maryland Dream Act to the ballot. "It's not a right to go to college. My question is, 'What are you doing here in the first place?'"
100,000 voters signed an on line petition. It's the first referendum on a bill passed by the legislature in 20 years. "If they want to take off a year or two, save their money, and they want to educate themselves," said Botwin, "God bless 'em."
It's tough to figure out how much the Dream Act will cost. The Maryland Department of Legislative Services predicted maybe $3.5 million in three years.
Montgomery College may have the most experience. It does not require students' citizenship for admission. It offers in-county tuition to county residents as well as anyone who recently graduated from a Montgomery County high school.
"For us, this really is a validation of what we already do," says Montgomery College President DeRionne Pollard. "We don't anticipate a huge influx of additional students."
Botwin's convinced voters will reject the Dream Act. "This law will go down in flames in November."
Campos hopes he's wrong. "If the Act fails, it will be like a piece of my life will be failing. A piece of my American dream."
Polls suggest Campos has good reason for hope. Two recent polls found about 60 percent of voters support the Dream Act -- and just one third of voters oppose it.
If voters approve it, it will be the first time ever.
Written and Reported by Bruce Leshan
9News Now 7 wusa9.com