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Undocumented Students Fighting for More Financial Aid, Scholarships

Undocumented Students Fighting for More Financial Aid, Scholarships
Susan Dutca-Lovell

Between her coursework and political activism, Bernarda Elizabet Garcia actively fights for immigrants' rights, especially when it comes to funding higher education. As a scholarship recipient of the Mario Savio Lecture Fund's Young Activist Award, Garcia is a powerful and influential voice in her community through her advocacy for extending federal financial aid to undocumented college students by "improving the quality of life through immigration reform and education." Though there currently are not many government policies that give financial assistance to undocumented students for higher education, there are other organizations that are dedicated to helping those students pay for a college education.

There are roughly 11.2 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, with 2.1 million potentially eligible for the most recently proposed federal DREAM Act. Only 7,000-13,000 undocumented students are enrolled in college in the United States. According to College Board, college tuition and fees for full-time students at a public four-year institution (in-state) was roughly $19,548 per year in 2015-2016. For out-of-state tuition at a public school, the cost was $34,031 and tuition at a private nonprofit cost, on average, $43,921 in the same year. Without financial aid, it is nearly impossible to afford a college education, especially when many undocumented students come from low-income households.

Though there is no federal or state law that prohibits undocumented students from being admitted or attending U.S. colleges, government policies pose a barrier, as undocumented students do not have access to federal financial aid or Pell grants. However, Georgia, along with Alabama and South Carolina, plan to implement a policy that would ban illegal students from being admitted to their colleges. Just earlier this month, Georgia's Supreme Court rejected an appeal for lowering the in-state tuition for undocumented students. According to Education Reporter Lauren Foreman, following Georgia's decision, eight students from Georgia State University were arrested after refusing to leave a protest. The DREAM Act, a bipartisan legislation introduced in Congress in 2001, failed to pass even after countless reintroductions and a big push in 2010. The goal of the act was to create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented children who grew up in the US. However, all state DREAM Acts are different and are not synonymous with DACA, which is a policy that was created in 2012 by President Obama to grant deferred deportation to those under 31 years of age who came to the U.S. when they were younger than 16.

Another controversial topic is whether or not undocumented students should be eligible for lower tuition - tuition that state residents pay when attending in-state universities and colleges. Currently, the majority of schools charge undocumented students out-of-state tuition. According to the National Immigration Law Center, at least twenty states have passed tuition equity bills that allow undocumented students to pay the same tuition as their classmates, regardless of their immigration status (certain criteria must be met to qualify). Based on the laws passed by these states, there is a general consensus that the state does not "lose revenue from the number of students who would otherwise pay out-of-state tuition," but rather, "it raises the percentage of high school graduates who pursue a college degree."

Organizations such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and TheDream.US are dedicated to helping undocumented students earn scholarships to pay for college, regardless of immigration status. Be sure to check with your current or prospective university or college to see what funding opportunities you are eligible for, if you are an undocumented student. Check out our scholarships for undocumented students and scholarships for which you qualify today to help fund your college education.

Comments (18)
Joan t 12/13/2018
They deserve nothing the inmates are in charge of the asylum time for Trump to build that damn wall
Cindy L 12/11/2016
I support giving every child an opportunity to get a college education - either: 1. Make it free for EVERY child in every household in America, regardless of status/income, or 2. Make every college student and their household pay for college tuition by working outside of college hours, and/or after graduation (without monetary recompense); or, for those households that have property such as a car or house, taking out a secured loan (unsecured loans won't work, especially if an opportunity is wasted or a college student can't, or won't, pay up when it comes time to do so). 3. Further, if any student decides to drop out of college (slapping the face of opportunity), they should still be made to pay for it. The current system is unbalanced and unsustainable; it puts the heaviest burden on the households that fund the programs while taking opportunities away from those same households, and places opportunity only in the hands of the very rich and very poor.
Cindy L 12/11/2016
It would be nice if all children had equal opportunity to get college. My U.S. citizen parents worked hard but could not afford it, for them or I. The scholarships and welfare programs provide opportunities to citizen children of low-income households and those born to undocumented parents, which never need be repaid. Our citizen child is not eligible for these programs because, even though we struggle to make ends meet, we are considered "middle class". Our costs for housing, medical, and food are not fully deducted from our income when applying to such programs, while the food, housing, and medical given to low income households is not counted as income for them. U.S. society has not afforded us a fair way to send our child to college without either getting on the welfare roll, or going into loan debt. The U.S. middle class citizen pays the most toward such education programs, and in return, our children are thrown under the bus.
Jacqueline Hdz cont. 3/6/2016
It's very upsetting that people only see many of the kids as undocumented and that they don't let themselves see beyond that. They don't see the hardships they have to go through to be able to get were we want to. Yes they are undocumented but there families and them still pay taxes. We all deserve the opportunity to go to school no matter were we were born. I don't think we should denie people the opportunity to get what they want because of were they were born. It's like saying you aren't going to get money for being gay or lesbian. Or for being blind, short, female, male, and anything else. If I offended someone by this characteristics I'm sorry but I was just trying to make a point about this subject that affects me in a personal level as well as many around me.
Jacqueline Hdz 3/6/2016
It's very unfair that undocumented students don't get the same opportunities documented students do cease in the end we are all trying to get a better future. They might be allowed to go to school but aren't allowed to be part of many program just because they weren't born here. I have a sister that's a year younger than me and we are both going to be graduating this year and it's hard for me to see that over the years she has been rejected from many programs that we both want to part of because she wasn't born here. One being the educational talent search in which I feel that she would have been able to benefit from. Im just really grateful that my ets counselor has never denied my sister the help she needs and I just wish there were more people out there were like that. When it comes to things like this it's very hard for me because in the one hand I'm happy to be able to be in many programs but in the other hand it's very hard for me because I'm not able to share them with my sister
Tina B 3/3/2016
I am wondering if we go to Mexico and try to live will the Universidads there do the same for us born here in the USA? If so then yes, by all means.
Gail f 3/3/2016
My daughter was born here we all are citizens as African Americans & she owes college debt where is the money for her to go to school free if one person goes free then everybody should go free if u can't afford it but only people who pays taxes
Ashley G 3/2/2016
I read through some of the comments and as a Daca student let me just say that my family is not living on "citizens money". My father pays his taxes and sends me to college with his own money that he has worked for. I decided I could look up for scholarships to help them out, but I'm not "taking the money away" because I'll work for it by writing essays and completing everything they ask for. I'm not asking to give undocumented students free tuition but it would be nice if we could at least pay the in-state tuition. I've been paying the out-of-state tuition since I've started college and it's not a cute number. I pay around twice as much as you do and I don't see my parents complaining how they will pay, but what I do see is a proud family. All I know is that I will graduate as a chemical engineer thanks to my parents and God.
Victoria D 2/27/2016
I see both ways to this situation. It is not fair for them to get college tuition but it is also not fair that they come to the United States, work the jobs that we do not want to do and not be apart of the tuition. It's uncalled for. We are all people. we should get the same opportunities as everybody else.
sally m 2/26/2016
I am director of a federally funded grant program, educational talent search in sc. Undocumented students are not eligible p articipants, however I come across msny gifted students that would benefit.This is precollege program for 6-12 grades, to assist low income, first generation (college) students to persist in high school and go on to college. We need more voices to speak up for undocuments to be eligible for educational talent search.
Colleen Zaccaro 2/24/2016
No kind of immigrants should get free or reduced college it is not fair to American citizens when they can't even afford college tuition
Faust C 2/22/2016
They're here illegally. They deserve nothing.
Andy A 2/22/2016
The amount of ignorance of the previous comments is astounding. It still shocks me that such mentalities are still very much alive. It's dumbfounding finding such views for people who are trying to reach goals and dreams like any other being. To have been born in the US is an incredible privilege as things are in a BETTER position for people. To believe that no one else deserves help but those who were born on US land is incredible. The point of having help for undocumented students is to give opportunities to those who are now in a country like any other individual to be on equal grounds not higher or better, nor lowering the help of anyone else. Undocumented citizens / students are not claiming help and having no work done. Undocumented students just like any other citizen work, study and pay taxes to support themselves and given back for the support they are receiving. To say having such support should not be called a human rights topic is ridiculous as these students are seeking support as they are underprivileged by any financial and possibly cultural situation. If one is to argue that help should be determined by the status one hold then reevaluation of such status is needed. The US was taken by foreigners after it was taken from indigenous people. It can not be fully claimed to be the land of anyone as its been taken and bargained by those other than its first inhabitants. To claim, why don't they just become citizens?, shows lack of understanding. It is comprehendible why it's troubling to understand the difficulty and the impediments for anyone to become citizens. It's years! For anyone to try to become citizen. Students dream of reaching such path is it eases situations and helps them reach greater and larger goals. The point of work such as the DACA is to give equal support to individuals. The Dream Act was supposed to give greater help yet was limited but the fight for equalization still goes on. Having better designed, equal support for these stud
Tracy R. 2/17/2016
Really? We are not talking about human rights here, that is an entirely different topic. We are talking about college tuition. For those of us that are LEGAL US citizens that have worked and paid taxes for 20+ years and now have children that are college age, one would think the opportunity would be there. But we seem to be carrying everyone else, and unable to afford to send our own children to college. Why in the world would we give illegal immigrants a better opportunity to get an education over our own children? Something has to give!!
P. J. 2/17/2016
No, undocumented, non citizens should not get federal money or tuition lowered by state universities. Citizens pay taxes for that money to go to other citizens. They may want to improve their education but that would then be unfair to those who have paid in taxes and are citizens who also want to further their education.
Beth A. 2/17/2016
The the suggestion that undocumented students should get Federal aid and discounted tuition rates is troubling. My parents and I struggle to pay my tuition. Who is going to pay for these new programs? In case you didn't know it, our country goes further in debt each year because of careless spending. You need to get a grip on reality. The unfulfilled needs of citizens should come first.
Zcasavant 2/16/2016
Oh wow.... I am not sure where I stand on this. But for sure this is going to majorly blow up. Scholarships specific to illegal immigrants? Yikes... I can see both sides' views here. But is it that hard to register for citizenship in the US? Should we be rewarding those who are simply tax-dodging? Is it significantly more complicated than this (obviously it is)? Lots of questions to ask. I sense some very significant social complications coming, as every single group of people wants to be represented now. Times are going to be interesting for the net generation.
Myosha jones 2/16/2016
According to the textual evidence, undocumented students basicslly have no financial rights as u.s citizens,we might as well call it citizens diversity, because organizations are causeing an gap between u.s citizens and undocumented people ,why?.it makes no sense to give undocumented people less rights because they are not originated in the U.S.A . It's like going to canada and be treated as an non human restricted of things Canadians have. We are causeing undocumented people to become poor all they want is an education to make there lifes better this does not mean that we let them bury us however for the governmet to treat them as they treat us that is the definition or every man being created equil.
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