Four states – California, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington – offer state financial aid to DREAMers

Four states – California, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington – offer state financial aid to DREAMers

Virginia offers in-state tuition to students covered under DACA, and the University of Hawaii and the University of Michigan provide in-state tuition rates to admitted DREAMers.

Others have gone in the opposite direction. Alabama and South Carolina prohibit undocumented students from long term installment loans online enrolling at any public college or university, according to NCSL, while three states – Arizona, Georgia, and Indiana – specifically prohibit in-state tuition for them. Wisconsin offered in-state tuition for two years before Governor Scott Walker removed funding for the program soon after he was elected in 2010.

Eighteen states currently offer in-state tuition to undocumented students: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, and Washington, according to the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL)

Some university systems are trying to address the lack of federal work-study aid by providing their own work opportunities on campus for this group, but that’s not yet widespread, Gonzales says.

Some private institutions, including Harvard, provide very generous need-based financial aid to students who happen to be undocumented, such as Montiel, in what President Drew Faust calls “passport-blind” financial aid. Faust has also come out publically in support for the DREAM Act.

“The DREAM Act would throw a lifeline to these students who are already working hard in our middle and high schools and living in our communities by granting them the temporary legal status that would allow them to pursue postsecondary education,” Faust wrote in letters in 2009 to Massachusetts Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, and Representative Michael Capuano. “I believe it is in our best interest to educate all students to their full potential – it vastly improves their lives and grows our communities and economy.”

Harvard College student Lisette Candia Diaz came to the United States from Chile at age 6 and grew up in Oceanside, New York. “My mom used [our undocumented status] as a way to get me to excel in school because she knew the only way I could go to college was to get into an elite school that would give me a full scholarship,” says Diaz, co-director of Act on a Dream, who was at the top of her high school class until her senior year, when her dad lost his job and she began working at Burger King 35 hours a week to support her family.

Last year, New York University, prompted by a student group for undocumented students, invited undocumented New York residents to apply for scholarships

But schools that can offer this level of financial assistance – Harvard is free to any student whose family earns less than $65,000 per year – are very hard to get into. “Only about 10 undocumented students are admitted to Harvard each year,” speculates Meza-Pena, who had planned to attend University of California–Berkeley – and pay in-state tuition – if she hadn’t attended Harvard.

Recently, some private schools are going further. Both Pomona College and Oberlin College have been very public in welcoming undocumented students. In April, Emory University announced it would provide financial aid to DACA students while Tufts University announced it would actively recruit undocumented students and provide financial aid. That same month, 70 percent of students at Loyola University of Chicago voted to increase their student fees to fund scholarships for DREAMers.

“It’s a really big announcement because a lot of other private universities, Harvard included, have what amounts to a kind of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ whereby undocumented students get financial aid based on family income,” Gonzales says. “What’s different about what Tufts and Emory are doing is that they have an explicit policy now whereby admissions offices are actively recruiting undocumented students, so there’s intentionality around it.” While it’s too early to tell, Gonzales hopes these policies “may impact issues of retention and graduation.”

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