States mull over student aid for undocumented students

While Congress grapples with immigration — in particular how to address the issue of so-called Dreamers — before the president’s March 5 deadline, states are trying to figure out how to handle tuition and student aid for such undocumented students.

In New Hampshire, state colleges and universities would be barred from providing state-funded financial aid to students who are not legal U.S. residents under a bill before the state Senate Education Committee. The bill would apply to both the University System of New Hampshire and the state’s community college system. It also would limit the availability of adult education programs funded by state or local sources to legal residents of the state of New Hampshire.

Advocates who work with refugees and immigrants are expected to oppose the bill at a public hearing next week.

In Connecticut, immigrant students without legal status in the U.S. are again urging state legislators to make them eligible for institutional financial assistance at state-run colleges and universities. This marks the fifth year that legislation has been proposed to make immigrant students eligible for financial aid funded by tuition payments from all students. Opponents have said the bill sends the wrong message.

Students and their supporters told the General Assembly’s Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee this week about the struggles the immigrant students face in trying to fund their education.

Both Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman are urging lawmakers to finally pass the legislation this year, saying circumstances by which the students arrived in the U.S. should not determine their futures.

Drop in aid applications

California has seen a significant drop in applications for college financial aid by California students who are in the country illegally after being brought to the U.S. as young children.

The Los Angeles Times reports that as of Monday this week 19,141 students had applied for aid under the California Dream Act, and the deadline is March 1. The number is just over half of last year’s total.

College counselors say this reflects increasing distrust of government among immigrant families, as well as uncertainty over the status of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.

Teacher Jane Slater at Sequoia High in Redwood City advises a club for students in the country without legal permission. She says students are more afraid for their families than for themselves.

In-state tuition

The Arizona Supreme Court this week said it will review a lower court ruling that said young immigrants granted deferred deportation status under DACA are not eligible for lower in-state college tuition.

The decision comes on an appeal by the Maricopa Community Colleges District, which won an initial ruling in its favor in 2015 that was overturned by the state appeals court in June.

The appeals court ruling said DACA did not confer legal status and each state can decide on optional benefits for DACA recipients. Arizona law bars public benefits such as in-state tuition for those without legal status.

The brief high court order accepting the appeal said it will now be set for arguments.

Associated Press reports were used in this article.

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