Five teachers at the International High School At Prospect Heights (IHS@PH) created the International Dreamers Scholarship Fund and are on track to raise their goal of $40,000. The scholarship was inspired by an IHS@PH undocumented student who planned to drop out of school because he did not have the money to attend college. So far, three students from the Class of 2012 have benefited from the scholarship, which is open to anyone who is ineligible for local, state, and federal financial aid “for the foreseeable future.”
The vast majority of students at International High School’s are recent immigrants, including a small undocumented population. Scholarships, which range from $1,000 to $20,000, help to defray the cost of post-secondary education.
Scholarships like the International Dreamers Scholarship Fund are rare and often privately funded. A scholarship fund is necessary because only fifteen states grant in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants. Only California, Texas, New Mexico, and recently Minnesota, offer financial aid for undocumented students. In six states, undocumented students are explicitly prohibited from receiving in-state tuition or even enrolling at public institutions.
While scholarships are necessary, this population is largely unable to shoulder the cost of higher education. The average cost of in-state tuition hovers at one-fourth of the average undocumented household income of $36,000. It’s no surprise, then, that only five to ten percent of undocumented students move on to college compared to seventy five percent of their peers.
The Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform plan could help address this problem by broadening the educational and financial opportunities open to undocumented youths and their families. Rejecting the Senate’s wide-ranging immigration plan, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) are now drafting a separate immigration bill to provide legal status for undocumented youths called the KIDS Act — a Republican version of the failed DREAM Act. The DREAM Act, which both Cantor and Goodlatte voted against in 2010, would have legalized undocumented youths so that they could qualify for a broader range of scholarships and financial aid. They also approved an amendment last month to revoke the deportation ban on the same undocumented population.