Federal law requires states to enroll children in kindergarten through twelfth grade regardless of their immigration status. However no such laws exist when it comes to these individuals attending college after they graduate from American high schools. While some states offer tuition assistance and financial aide to undocumented students, many still do not.
The disparity in the range of assistance severely impacts the dream of a college education for many students who have gone through our public school systems and graduated from our high schools. In-state tuition is much more affordable than out of state costs, yet without state or federal aide, the tuition rates still exceed what most of these individuals can afford or borrow.
Immigration reform is a hot topic right now and many politicians and legislators are shying away from taking a stand on the issue. With President Obama’s Executive Order recently put on hold, some fear adding tuition assistance to the agenda will just ignite more controversy and animosity. A bill calling for tuition assistance for students who legalized their immigration status was defeated in 2013, sending a clear message that the issue is not on the top of the immigration policy reform agenda.
Some proponents for immigrant tuition assistance are calling the current policies discriminatory, claiming a large majority of undocumented immigrants have been in the United States longer than they lived in their native country. In North Carolina, students with a deferred action status can apply for in-state tuition if their employer agrees to sponsor them. If they don’t have the support of an employer, they must pay out of state tuition rates. Though DACA students can apply early in North Carolina, undocumented students must wait until the semester begins and can then only enroll in classes with an open spot. They are not permitted to enroll in classes with a waiting list.
Opponents to the tuition assistance initiative claim that offering undocumented students aide will take away money available to U.S. citizens. Many of those students without legal status receive scholarships and grants that help pay their way into American universities and colleges, which opponents feel further depletes options for U.S. citizens. Some opponents are even suggesting that undocumented students return to their native country to attend college, drawing on assistance from their own governments and lending institutions, and taking advantage of scholarships and grants there.
For now the issue remains unsettled, with many waiting to see what happens with the President’s Executive Order on immigration reform. As the upcoming presidential elections near, many politicians are taking a hesitant approach to commit to a firm stand on these issues. In the meantime, immigrant student activists continue to bring attention to the plight of undocumented students, hoping that their voices will draw attention to the problem.
Philadelphia Immigration and Nationality Law Firm of Surin & Griffin, PC Advocate for the Rights of Undocumented Students
The dedicated and experienced Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, PC are staunch advocates for immigrants in the United States. If you or someone you know is in need of legal counsel or representation for an immigration issue, contact the highly skilled, multi-lingual Philadelphia immigration lawyers at 215-925-4435 or complete the online contact form to schedule a consultation today. Conveniently located in center city Philadelphia, Surin & Griffin, PC is easily accessible by car, bus, train, and all forms of public transportation.