How can immigrants, including illegal immigrants, get a higher education in America - ForumDaily
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How Immigrants, Including Illegals, Get Higher Education in America

What do DACA beneficiaries and undocumented individuals need to do to continue their education and go to college? CitizenPath.

Photo: Shutterstock

According to a recent report, about 100 undocumented students graduate from US high schools each year. And while education in US public schools up to grade 000 is guaranteed by law, most (if not all) undocumented students face legal and financial barriers to higher education. Improvements are slow, but changes are already underway, making college education accessible to "dreamers" (the beneficiaries of the DACA program, which protects against deportation of illegal immigrants brought to the US by children).

So far, Congress has failed to pass the federal DREAM Act, which provides legal status and makes higher education more accessible to undocumented youth. At the moment, the DACA program and the DREAM Acts at the state level alleviate the situation.

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Unfortunately, however, more than half of the states in the country have not adopted DREAM-style legislation and do not have a friendly policy towards unregistered resident students. This means that an undocumented resident immigrant who wants to attend a state college, university, or community college must pay much higher out-of-state tuition fees. Moreover, undocumented students, even those with DACA, are not eligible for grants and scholarships at the federal level.

College admission for undocumented students

The education of an undocumented immigrant in US public schools up to grade 12 is guaranteed by law. Some undocumented students assume they cannot legally attend college in the US. There is no federal or state law prohibiting the admission of undocumented immigrants to US colleges, public or private. No federal or state laws require students to prove citizenship in order to enroll in US institutions of higher education. However, institutional policies regarding the admission of unregistered students vary.

“...denying undocumented children a basic education would deprive them of the opportunity to live within the structure of our civil institutions and would eliminate any real possibility that they would contribute in the slightest degree to the progress of our nation,” Plyer v. Doe (1982).

College education

Many public colleges and universities charge tuition fees to undocumented out-of-state students (even if the student is a longtime resident of the state). Obviously, this policy may make college financially unaffordable for these children.

However, several states have enacted DREAM laws or adopted in-state training policies. Requirements vary by state. Generally, students must reside in the state and attend high school for a specified period (1 to 4 years), graduate or obtain a GED, and sign an affidavit confirming their intent to apply for legal immigration status. There are several states that have made it easier for dreamers to go to college by supporting in-state education:

StaffLawYear of adoptionFinancial help
CaliforniaAB 5402001Yes
ColoradoSB 13-0332013N/A
ConnecticutHB 63902011N/A
FloridaHB 8512014N/A
IllinoisHB 602003N/A
KansasHB 21452004N/A
MarylandSB 1672011N/A
MinnesotaSF12362013Yes
NebraskaLB 2392006N/A
New JerseySB 24792013No
New MexicoSB 5822005Yes
New YorkSB 77842002N/A
OklahomaSB 5962003N/A
OregonHB 27872013N/A
Rhode Island series2011N/A
TexasHB 14032001Yes
UtahHB 1442002N/A
VirginiaHB 7792014N/A
WashingtonHB 10792003Yes

 

States that have made every effort to prevent undocumented immigrant students from receiving in-state tuition benefits include Alabama (HB56 2011), Arizona (Proposition 300 2006), Georgia (SB 492 2008) , South Carolina (HB4400, 2008) and Indiana (H 1402, 2011).

Financial Aid and Scholarship Programs for Dreamers

Undocumented students cannot legally receive any federally funded student financial assistance, including loans, grants, scholarships, or work and study money. Therefore, you should not complete the Free Application for Federal Student Assistance (FAFSA) unless you are a US citizen or other eligible noncitizen.

Likewise, most states limit eligibility for financial assistance to citizens and permanent residents. However, some states provide eligibility for public financial assistance to undocumented students who are eligible to study in the state.

TheDream.US has become one of the most reputable national scholarship funds for undocumented students. To qualify, applicants must obtain a DACA. However, there are various scholarship programs with different requirements.

Scholarship programs:

Once a student has chosen their school, they should be sure to review the list of schools in the Financial Aid and Scholarship Resources list. Some small scholarship programs may be tied to a specific school.

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants, and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York.

For more information on finding colleges as an undocumented student, applying as an undocumented student, and tips on getting into college, see Best College Guide for DACA and Undocumented Students.

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