We believe children should not be penalized for the crimes of their parents and that in an ideal society all should have the opportunity to achieve to their potential for the greater good.

In that context, we applaud the Connecticut General Assembly for having the courage to pass the state's version of the DREAM Act last week.

This act enables the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public community colleges and universities, instead of the much-higher out-of-state rate.

For an institution such as Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, the difference is more than $10,000 a year -- $19,800 versus $9,200.

The higher, out-of-state amount can prove to be an obstacle to students who have no hope of receiving federal grants or loans. That is a problem, since it is in society's interest to have an educated, productive workforce.

The bill contains some reasonable requirements: The students must have spent at least four years in public schools in the state and hold a high school degree or the equivalent, and they must pursue a path to citizenship.

The bill passed the House and Senate largely along party lines. In Western Connecticut, Democrats supported the bill and Republicans did not.

Some GOP members who voted against it said they were concerned children of illegal immigrants would be taking university seats at the expense of other students.

But WestConn President James Schmotter said that would not be the case, as the university has the ability to admit as many as 60 more students above the goal. The university would expect to see perhaps a dozen more students as a result of this bill.

Others who voted against the bill said they believe the issue should be addressed by the federal government, not the states, and they claim Connecticut's action could ease the pressure for a national DREAM act.

That is not likely.

In the meantime, the new bill, which Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has pledged to sign into law, will allow all students who live in Connecticut and have had years of schooling the opportunity to pay in-state tuition for higher learning.