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Scholarship Campaign Launched for Undocumented Students

Nebraska's 150,000 immigrants paid nearly $950 million in taxes in 2017. (Jonathan McIntosh/Wikimedia Commons)
Nebraska's 150,000 immigrants paid nearly $950 million in taxes in 2017. (Jonathan McIntosh/Wikimedia Commons)
April 18, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. — On Wednesday at the Nebraska Civil Rights Conference in Lincoln, a national campaign was launched to pave the way for more students to attend college.

Valeria Rodriguez is the national campus coordinator for the group Define American. She said the campaign's primary goal is to convince decision-makers at institutions offering grants and scholarships that all American students should have equal access to higher education regardless of their documentation status.

"Our goal is definitely to get as many scholarships and foundations to change their scholarship requirements and allow thousands of Americans to apply for these scholarships,” Rodriguez said.

Undocumented students currently are barred from applying for most forms of financial aid, which Rodriguez said leaves thousands of Nebraska's students who may otherwise meet scholarship guidelines scrambling to find a way to pay for college.

Some critics argue that because many U.S. citizens lack access to affordable higher education, it's only fair to reserve funding for those who have entered and remain in the country legally.

According to recent New American Economy data, in 2017 DREAMers – those brought to the United States as children by their parents – paid $2.2 billion in federal taxes, and $1.8 billion in state and local taxes. Nebraska's 150,000 immigrants paid nearly $950 million in taxes in the same year.

Rodriguez said she believes immigrants should be allowed to apply for scholarships funded with tax dollars.

"And this isn't necessarily giving them funding,” she said. “It's giving them the opportunity to apply and letting the committee decide for themselves if they meet the qualifications regarding academics, giving back to their communities."

Rodriguez noted the citizenship requirement for scholarship applications is frequently a result of cutting-and-pasting older templates into online platforms, and making the change could be as simple as removing the citizenship question.

The #Scholarships4All campaign kicked off on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, and Rodriguez said the next move is to expand by tapping her group's chapters at colleges in some 20 states.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE