Scholarship program announced for undocumented students - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Scholarship program announced for undocumented students

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Gov. Dannel Malloy announced a scholarship program from TheDream.US aimed at giving undocumented students access to a college education in their own states.

TheDream.US, which labeled itself as the largest scholarship program for students who are locked out of access, entered a partnership with Connecticut and Delaware, Malloy said on Tuesday.

The program said no state funds will be spent on it. Despite that, it said it has the potential to generate more than $40 million in revenue for partner colleges.

“Education is an American value," said Donald E. Graham, co-founder of The.Dream.US. "We should help every student who has worked hard. TheDream.US Opportunity Scholarship will help immigrant students fulfill their dreams of obtaining a college education so they can better the lives of their families, communities, and our nation. We are proud to partner with Eastern Connecticut State University and Delaware State University, with the incredible leadership of Gov. Malloy and Gov. [Jack] Markell, to give deserving students the opportunity for an affordable college education.”

TheDream.US Opportunity Scholarship, which is privately funded, will pay up to $80,000 to help fund the costs of tuition, fees, on-campus housing and meals for these students to earn a bachelor’s degree, the program said in a news release.

"This isn't a handout. It's not a free lunch. These are students that are highly motivated, highly talented but because of where they live they're frozen out from getting in state tuition," said Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities.

The students, also known as "DREAMers," said higher education is a struggle because it's impossible for them to get financial aid.

They said they've been locked out of going to college in including Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin. 

However, they said they will continue to fight for the aid into which they are paying.

Yenimar Cortes said she was accepted to most of the schools to which she applied. However, the high school senior can not get financial aid.

"This would complete my dreams and help me afford college," Cortes said.

Cortes's struggle represents that of hundreds of undocumented students.

"We should fight to get an education because that's what we all want," Cortes said. "We want to be successful in life and help others with our careers. That's what we want too."

Connecticut Senate Bill 147, which would have provided institutional aid for undocumented students, made it through the state Senate but was tabled in the House of Representatives.

Students believe they should have equal access to the tuition dollars put aside for financial aid.

"The aid we are pursuing is institutional revenue which undocumented students are paying into," said Lucas Codognolla, lead coordinator of Connecticut students for a Dream.

Gov. Dannel Malloy's announcement happened at 11 a.m. at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic.

He was accompanied by leaders from ECSU and Connecticut's colleges and universities.

"We're pleased to take part in this program and do what we can to give hardworking students the chance to succeed," said Gov. Dannel Malloy. "Our state stands to benefit from welcoming them, along with their talents and potential, to our communities and to our schools."

ECSU and Delaware State University are leading the way in the scholarship effort.

Both said they have the capacity to admit DREAMer scholarships without depriving their states' students of the opportunity to attend the schools.

In addition to helping more than 500 out of state DREAMers, the program said it will provide 100 scholarships of up to $7,250 each to in-state DREAMers attending ECSU or Delaware State University.

TheDream.US said it's also working with philanthropists to raise additional funds.

“We applaud the governor’s invitation to undocumented students whose dreams of attending college are held hostage in their states to come study in Connecticut," Codognolla said. "While we are ecstatic to hear that many in our community will have the opportunity to access this program and have their dreams of attending college turn into reality, there is a lot more to be done. We will continue to organize undocumented students and fight to change educational policies that create sustainable, systemic change that will bring education equity to all undocumented students in the state.”

The deadline for applying for a scholarship is June 9. For more on the application process, click here.

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