Undocumented Students Can Still Go to College
USA Today reported that thousands of young adults who were brought to America as children through other than legal means are now college graduates. There’s Cesar Vargas, a Law graduate from CUNY who passed the bar; there’s Adriana Sanchez, a daughter of farm workers who graduated with a Masters in International Relations who now works as an independent contractor thanks to a gray area in the law.1
“For most undocumented students, you have to put yourself out there. You volunteer, you go beyond what regular students do,” Sanchez said. “That’s what connects us to opportunities. Now employers call me.”2
Thanks to laws granting illegal aliens in-state tuition, college can be affordable even if you were not born in California. As an anti-illegal immigration website puts it: “California’s DREAM act meant that it was one of the first states to open its institutions of higher education to illegal immigrants. Add to that the fact that the federal government gives some of them temporary legality under its Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and you suddenly have a huge number of new students competing with legal California residents for college admission and financial aid.”3
Some universities like Berkeley even have an “Undocumented Student Program” at http://undocu.berkeley.edu. The website offers everything from financial aid and scholarships, housing resources, health and wellness, even legal support.
While the DREAM Act does open opportunities, it’s not grant program or scholarship, they don’t have access to Pell Grants, they can’t get special public benefits, they are not immediately eligible for food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistant for Needy Families, and/or Medicaid (except for emergency care). In other words, the person must stay in America as a lawful permanent resident for five years before they get non-emergency welfare.4
Regardless of federal law, individual States and even individual colleges as free to do as they wish. Berkeley is not only famous for their Undocumented Student Program, they have also made history by offering a $1 million scholarship for undocumented students. “The expectation is for the fund to initially benefit about 200 students, provided they meet the minimum GPA requirement of 3.0.”5 Of course, outside of California, in Red States like Georgia, the climate isn’t as welcoming: “I graduated high school in May 2011, the same year that the Georgia Board of Regents put into effect a ban barring the undocumented students from attending the top five public universities in Georgia,” said Chris Garcia.5 But in places like Ohio, undocumented migrants with temporary legal status will be able to pay in-state tuition rates.6
Undocumented immigrants with temporary legal status soon will be allowed to pay in-state tuition rates at all Ohio public colleges as long as they meet other residency requirements. The status of the Dream Act remains unclear, while Obama did issue an executive order making the Dream Act a reality, Republicans voted to defund Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). ICE agents are also suing the administration arguing that ““violates the obligation of the executive branch to faithfully execute the law,” which states that if immigration officers determine that an individual who has been arrested is in the country illegally, that individual “shall be detained” and processed for deportation. The Obama administration, however, is arguing that the word “shall,” in this instance, actually means “may.” DHS is simply exercising its “prosecutorial discretion,” the administration contends, with respect to immigration law enforcement.”6
Undocumented students should seek help from an educational adviser, at EduPlan we are available to support you in learning more about your options if you undocumented. They should also consider going to college in Blue States like California, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, and others where undocumented students are welcomed. Consult with an educational advisor in EduPlan for more information.