North Carolina CEO Sets Up Scholarship Program For Students Who Are Undocumented Immigrants

With about 325,000 undocumented immigrants in the state, North Carolina has the ninth-largest undocumented population in the U.S. The state would see a $7.8 billion economic boost if Congress passed the DREAM Act and gave legal status to qualified undocumented immigrants, but some Republicans in the state plan to push for harmful immigration policies in the state because of how much they say illegal immigration costs the state.

In the meantime, a North Carolina CEO has donated $1 million to set up a nonprofit that will provide scholarships to cover the full cost of college for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children:

Ric Elias, co-founder of the Red Ventures Internet marketing firm in Fort Mill, S.C., says his Golden Door Scholars program is taking applications and should award its first scholarships by the end of this year. It’s unclear how many will be awarded. […]

Elias understands that Golden Door’s mission will prompt criticism, given the intense, often acrimonious political debate surrounding the nation’s immigration laws.

“I don’t really care,” said Elias, a native of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated U.S. territory. “It doesn’t faze me. If we can get people talking about this, (criticism) may not actually be a bad thing, given the lack of understanding out there on this issue.” […]

“We are calling it Golden Door because this is what our country stands for: hope and opportunity,” he said. “This is not a political statement. It’s about helping kids, and putting those kids through college only makes this a better country.”

Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for most college financial aid programs, and in North Carolina, they have to pay out-of-state tuition for public universities. Pablo Orozco, a 16-year-old undocumented immigrant who came to the U.S. from Argentina when he was 5, told the Charlotte Observer he will apply for the scholarship program. He has a 4.4 GPA and said he would “love to go to college, but my residency status doesn’t allow me to get financial aid.”


A comprehensive scholarship for undocumented students like the one Elias has set up is rare, but individual colleges are taking steps to help in states that do not offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants who graduate from high school in that state. Metropolitan State University of Denver has started charging qualified undocumented immigrants a reduced tuition rate — $3,000 higher than tuition for in-state students who are citizens or legal residents, but $8,000 lower than the out-of-state rate. And after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order forbidding state agencies from providing any new benefits to deferred action recipients — including in-state tuition — officials for the Maricopa Community Colleges announced that the school would offer in-state tuition rates to students who receive temporary legal status under the deferred action program. While these colleges and programs try to help make college affordable for DREAMers, the Republican party platform endorsed a provision that calls for universities to be denied federal funds if they allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition.