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Leaving DACAmented College Students in the Lurch

CREDIT: Photo by William Stitt on Unsplash

Note: Given the rapidly changing situation on this subject, this article will be regularly updated. Last updated: Jan. 19, 2018.

For related resources, check out Generation Progress’s list of scholarship resources for undocumented students, and Generation Progress’s advocacy toolkit to help make your college campus supportive of undocumented students.

The urgency facing the undocumented immigrant population under the Trump administration could not be more real. Many young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children—known as Dreamers—who received temporary protected status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program face unique challenges. Around 700,000 Dreamers received DACA, and are now contending with the loss of legal protections because of the Trump Administration’s intent to arbitrarily end the program, impacting many areas of life, including higher education.

In certain states, DACA allows many students to enroll in public colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates—while in others, DACA is a prerequisite for attendance, without providing in-state tuition rates. With the end of the program, many will have their academic goals derailed either by increased financial burdens or change in their legal ability to enroll at public institutions.

This is a difficult time for the undocumented community and the staff at Generation Progress is sensitive to the worry and stress that the end of DACA has caused millions. This post is meant to serve as a set of resources for undocumented college students looking for next steps should they lose DACA. While the resources we compiled below are by no means comprehensive, we hope they serve as helpful next steps in the difficulties many students are facing.

Resources from partner organizations:

While negotiations between the White House and lawmakers are ongoing, and while advocates are fighting to pass a Dream Act, DACAmented students are, by necessity, figuring out what possible changes to DACA mean for their lives. Recognizing that everyone’s situation is different and many face considerations outside of those outlined below, we’ve put together some common questions to consider for those facing enrollment and affordability obstacles due to loss of DACA status.

  1. Determine your state’s laws on DACA and higher education:This map by the uLEAD Network shows the different state laws that affect undocumented and DACAmented student enrollment at public colleges, and their access to in-state tuition rates and state financial aid. You can access the interactive map and see details on the in-state tuition and enrollment laws in the states at uLEADnet.org.
    DACA law mapCertain states limit access to in-state tuition rates based on DACA status. Others have outright bans on institutions enrolling undocumented students, with some exceptions if they have DACA. Breakdowns of these states show how many enrolled students and college-aged young people will be affected by the end of the DACA program and the delay of legal status they’d be granted through the Dream Act.
  2. Determine with the below chart if your state is in class A, B, or C—these are examples of states with some of the more punitive measures for undocumented students:
    DACA law map - chart 1DACA law map - chart 2
  3. Determine which next steps make the most sense for your case:
    If you live in a state highlighted in Class A, Class B, or Class C, and may face difficulty completing college due to the loss of DACA status, we want to offer some resources.

    • If you live in a state highlighted in Class A or Class C, and your state prohibits those who lose DACA from paying in-state tuition rates across the state:
      • Determine if, by your own judgement, it is wise to go to the financial aid office and academic counselors on your campus to go over your options to pay for tuition. If you are concerned about exposing your status to college employees, find an allied campus group or friend to ask anonymously on your behalf.
      • Check with your college’s financial aid office, student affairs office, or an on-campus organization supporting undocumented students to see if your school has an emergency fund or tuition assistance program for undocumented students to cover the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition.
      • Check out scholarships and programs open to, or specifically meant to help, undocumented students (with and without DACA) that can help cover the new tuition difference at your school.
      • If you live in a Class A state, like Massachusetts, find out what your institution intends to do if they currently only extend in-state tuition benefits to DACA recipients. If transfer to another institution within the state—one that offers in-state tuition benefits to undocumented students without requiring DACA—is feasible, research if your academic credits are transferable.
      • If your school doesn’t offer any on-campus resources or assistance programs, organize to obtain commitments from your administration and keep them accountable to those commitments.
    • If you live in a state highlighted in Class C, and your state prohibits those who do not have DACA from legally attending state colleges:
      • Check out organizations that are designed to bring a quality, credible higher education to undocumented students who are displaced by laws barring their college enrollment.
        • E.g. Atlanta-based Freedom University, an organization which provides tuition-free education, college application and scholarship assistance, and social movement leadership training to undocumented students banned from public higher education institutions in Georgia.
      • Research if there are accredited private colleges that open enrollment to undocumented students without status, and would be practical alternative options to continue your education.
        • Check if your credits at your current school are transferable to the private schools you are considering.
        • See if they have institutional aid open to or meant for undocumented students.
      • Avoid for-profit college scams. Do your research on the institution or program’s accreditation, costs, job placement rates, and student debt averages. Check CollegeScorecard.ed.gov for a school’s graduation and employment rates.

In addition, DACAmented college students should begin to consider what other factors may be affected by loss of status and prepare for alternatives where possible. There are other factors that may affect one’s ability to go to school because of the loss of DACA status, such as loss of driver’s license. Be sure to consider health coverage as soon as possible in case you receive it from your college.

If you would like to take action on behalf of DACAmented and undocumented folks, demand a plan from Congress using our quick-click email tool.

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