Undocumented students fight for equality; financial aid - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Undocumented students fight for equality; financial aid

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They're fighting for their future.

Undocumented high school students from around the state are asking for support from legislators to give them access to state financial aid for college.

Students strongly feel that they should be eligible for equal access to student-generated state financial aid because it comes from the students' own tuition.

This week of action aims to get two proposals, House Bill 7000 and Senate Bill 17, eventually signed into law. 

Both would make financial aid for state public colleges and universities available for undocumented students. 

The proposals made it out of the higher education committee last month. 

On Tuesday, students and allies met with lawmakers at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

Gabriela Valdiglesias is a senior at Hall High and has lived in Connecticut for 16 years and wants to go to Manchester Community College before transferring to UConn.

“I want to become a clinical psychologist,” Valdiglesias said.

She and dozens of other undocumented students lobbied lawmakers asking them to help lift the burden and even the playing field.

“Just being undocumented here, I've faced a lot of barriers trying to achieve higher education,” Valdiglesias said.

She is one of four siblings, all from Peru, who are in or about to be in college. Her father runs a painting company and is the sole breadwinner, but the funds aren't there.

“My father has to pay everything out of pocket, and having four kids in college, it's an enormous amount of money he has to pay,” Valdiglesias said, adding that she would like to tap into the institutional aid.

“All students, when they pay tuition, have a percentage of their tuition dollars set aside for institutional aid, which is financial aid, based on need or merit,” said State Rep. Gregory Haddad (D-Mansfield).

Because Valdiglesias is undocumented, she said she’s excluded from even applying for those funds and other federal grants too.

Haddad has tried to push the measure in years past, but hasn’t gotten anywhere. He’s hoping this year will be different.

“I think putting a human face on this issue, is really critically important. These are students who graduated from CT high schools, are our friends and neighbors and don't have access provided to other CT students,” Haddad said.

There's no timetable for a vote, but lawmakers are confident one will come before the session is over. Haddad says there's been strong bipartisan support this year. 

Should undocumented students have access to financial aid? Vote in our poll here.

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