Immigration status not to affect college tuition

Undocumented students gain equal access to financial aid, scholarships

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Oregon Governor Kate Brown passed Senate Bill 1563 and House Bill 4111 on May 1, allowing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients to keep reduced tuition rates and renew their temporary driver’s licenses.

According to Oregon Gear Up, many states require undocumented students to pay international or out-of-state tuition — even if they have lived in the state for most of their lives. The bills were passed in order to support the undocumented community in Oregon. With the passing of these bills, undocumented students will have more opportunities to further their education.

“[House Bill] 4111 and SB 1563 provide an incentive and broaden the opportunity to pursue college. It offers hope,” Lane Community College Chicano/Latino Student Program Coordinator James Garcia said. “The allowance for a driver’s license certainly decreases stress from being placed into a position to drive without a license in order to pursue employment and school.”  

Many undocumented students are struggling to pay the higher tuition at Lane — international students are charged $236 per credit hour, compared to $109.50 for Oregon residents — without any financial assistance. According to Oregon Gear Up, undocumented students are not able to access federal financial assistance or access any federal resources. Senate Bill 1563 offers more resources and funding for students by allowing them access to financial aid and scholarships from public universities. According to Garcia, this allows undocumented students to be more successful in their college experience.

“It is not uncommon for students to have one or two jobs to pay for school and living expenses,” Garcia said. “This creates a challenging balancing act negotiating the demands of personal, workplace and school obligations. It is difficult for students to engage in the college experience that is rewarding to them. We do our best to identify scholarships and encourage students to apply for these opportunities. ”

There are currently 7,000-13,000 undocumented students applying for college each year in the state, according to Oregon Gear Up.

“These bills create opportunity for more students to consider and enroll in colleges,” Garcia said. “As educators, we encourage college and financial planning to students. However, it is very difficult to do such planning when the environment about immigration is so fluid and may change at any moment with a presidential executive order or federal court ruling.”

SB 1563 aims to encourage undocumented students to continue their education and enroll in college, as well as opening up greater opportunities in the workforce.