Schools Begin Offering Aid to Undocumented Immigrants

Executive Orders

Although federal financial aid is unavailable to undocumented students, a growing number of universities are making education more obtainable by offering direct assistance to students.

When President Obama ordered protected status to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the move toward legal status reverberated into the ivory towers of academia. While DACA did nothing to give undocumented students a helping hand in terms of federal financial aid, the executive order correlates with a trend toward making education accessible to those who live in the United States as undocumented immigrants.

Without citizenship, undocumented immigrants have no access to Pell grants or other types of federal assistance. And although some schools quietly offered university-backed funding to the best and brightest undocumented students, the DACA program means schools are more open about their offer of support to these students.

Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania is one such school that recently began offering more financial aid to undocumented young people. In a press release on the school’s site, Daniel Porterfield, Franklin and Marshall College president, said the school is “extending an inspiring message to others in higher education and public life. As we have invested in a talent strategy that benefits all students, we’re showing other institutions it’s possible to increase financial aid, enhance academic excellence and deepen the talent of the student body.”

In December, the president fostered the academic outreach by hosting the second White House College Opportunity Day of Action. Among the initiatives adopted at the summit was the commitment to increase the number of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates.

“We all know the STEM fields are pivotal to American economic competitiveness, national security, public health, energy independence, job creation, and our ability to prolong the health and productivity of the older members of our aging society,” Porterfield told the summit attendees. “To succeed, we need to draw the top talent from the full American mosaic, and from the full spectrum of the American economy.”

Although the number of institutions offering school-backed assistance isn’t known, more than a dozen states have adopted an in-state tuition rule.  States that include New York, New Jersey, Texas and California allow undocumented in-state high school graduates to pay in-state tuition at state schools, which is often substantially less expensive than the out-of-state tuition rate.