With concerns about the fate of undocumented college students reverberating throughout communities across the country, a campaign launched in California last month to relieve those anxieties resulted in an uptick of the number of undocumented students applying for California Dream Act college grants.
According to a report in EdSource, prior to the campaign, the number of people applying for the grants was declining despite the fact that low-income undocumented college students could use the grants to attend public and private colleges in California. The perceived reason: undocumented students and their families were concerned that the application information could be handed over to the federal immigration authorities and result in deportation.
There are real concerns given the increase in arrests and potential for deportation especially in Texas, but the campaign set out to relieve those fears by offering college students counseling and sending messages from California lawmakers. The result: the number of applications for the Dream Act jumped 5% to 35,882 by the deadline of March 2. Compared to a year ago, the number of new applicants was fewer by nine applications, but there were 1,762 more renewals this year.
Under former President Obama, the White House implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA Act). With this law, those who were brought into the country as undocumented children immigrants are protected from deportation. Additionally, they can work in the country as well as access federal student loans. Currently there are about 750,000 of these so-called “Dreamers” in the country. President Trump has expressed sympathy and said that he would maintain DACA. Not everyone was convinced, particularly undocumented students, explaining the original decline in applications.
California’ Student Aid Commission executive director Lupita Cortez Alcalá told EdSource that the uptick in applications was a result of the work by her staff in getting the word out to immigrants via talks in high schools, colleges, and college readiness classes. She said that one of the main reasons for the increase in applications for the grant was convincing them the personal data on their applications wouldn’t be shared with the government.
California isn’t the only state that is trying to help undocumented students get access to grants towards college degrees. Last month, the Connecticut General Assembly’s Higher Education Committee was slated to start hearings on a bill to provide illegal immigrant students access to financial aid. The aid would be bankrolled by the tuition that students at state schools pay.
Proponents of the bill say that immigrant students already pay into the college fund, but they can’t apply to access any of the money in it. Republicans are against the idea, arguing that legal residents of the state could be pushed out of the aid pool if illegal immigrant students gained access to funding.
One thing is clear. The question of undocumented students and their eligibility for federal aid is yet another hot topic that sparks controversy across the country. At any rate, it is clear that party lines persist and create opposition down at the state government level, mirroring their superiors at the federal level.
Author: Andrew Rombach
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