By Carina Peng
“I won’t apply there because it is out of my reach.” This straight-A student is referring to a top-tier college. Every year, many undocumented students refuse to apply to top colleges. A survey from College Board found that, of the 65,000 undocumented students that graduate from high school every year in the U.S., only 5% to 10% enroll in college.
Oftentimes, one’s immigration status correlates with socio-economic status. Low-income along with undocumented status can deter a perfectly qualified senior from submitting an application to a college that would maximize their opportunities. “Annually, approximately 30,000 talented low-income students nationally are academically qualified to attend the nation’s best colleges, but the majority of them don’t even apply to one selective college” (College Board).
There are four main sources of scholarships and grants: federal, state, institutional, and private. As an undocumented student, one is instantly ineligible for the federal and state grants. Luckily, students are still eligible for institutional and private scholarships. For example, colleges such as Pomona College, Oberlin College and Tufts University have policies on their acceptance of undocumented students. Further, state agencies such as the Illinois Student Assistance Commission are committed to making college more affordable and accessible for students in need. “To reach our goal, we established the Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP) Grant which Illinois state students can apply to. We also do a lot of outreach with CORE Peer Mentors to do one-on-one financial aid information workshops across the state,” Abel Montoya, the Director of Outreach Operations, explained.
In particular, for Chicago Public School students, there are also initiatives within CPS to help ease undocumented students’ transition to college. Miguel Saucedo, the Director of Strategic Partnerships and Special Populations in CPS, shared that educators have united to form a focus group called Coalition of Illinois Educators Leading Undocumented Students. “We try to host financial resource fairs where we bring together scholarship providers and families. We also post policy information and scholarship lists for DREAMers,” Dr. Saucedo shared. “One of the challenges right now with the focus group, though, is that we don’t have much youth involvement.”
Nationwide, there are also nonprofit organizations such as QuestBridge that link low-income students with educational and scholarship opportunities, believing that this information gap creates lack of access. College affordability is a real problem right now for a large population of undocumented students, but in all levels, there is an increasing amount of support available.
Learn more about planning to pay for college and reducing debt at ISAC.org. Request a visit with an ISAC Student Corp member.