Bill aims to give undocumented students equal access to financia - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Bill aims to give undocumented students equal access to financial aid

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(WFSB photo) (WFSB photo)

A bill is on the table to level the playing field in terms of financial aid access to all college students, including those who are undocumented.

On Thursday morning, students, unions and other groups said they'll be gathering at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford to launch what they're calling their "Afford to Dream" campaign.

""This is part of our population and it's part of our population that grows and helps grow our economy," Deputy Majority Leader Beth Bye said. 

One of the students in attendance will be West Hartford high school student Gaby Valdiglesias.

"As a senior in high school who has five months until graduation I worry," she said in a news released. "I worry if I'll be financially stable for college. I have three older siblings, they all started college but had to drop out because our family could no longer afford classes. I worry the same will happen to me."

Valdiglesias called education a human right, not a privilege.

"It really baffles me that this is the fourth year that we are fighting for this," Valdiglesias said. "Getting a higher education should not be a privilege, it should be a basic human right."

Last year, undocumented students were at the state capitol to lobby for the same tuition assistance given by Connecticut colleges and universities to students who are legal citizens of the U.S.

Currently, undocumented students are ineligible for institutional aid, which is money set aside by colleges to help low income students.

The Afford To Dream bill was introduced into the state senate by Sen. President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, who represents New Haven, Hamden and North Haven.

Similar bills were introduced over the past two years, but never garnered enough support to pass.

"We fervently supported similar legislation last year and will do so again this year.," said Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System. "Our students are paying into a fund they cannot access simply because of their immigration status."

Thursday's news conference rallied groups on Thursday morning

About 50 undocumented students with caps and gown were there along with other groups supporting the effort.

Five-percent of Connecticut Public School students are undocumented immigrants. The bill will now be considered by the senate higher education committee.

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