Karina Arango

sfstl-adminStudent Stories

Class of 2015
Bachelor of Arts, Communications
Fontbonne University

I am grateful for the opportunities I have as a US citizen, and I’d like to be sure others who consider this country their home are also able to contribute to our democracy. As a policy intern with the Foundation, I have learned so much about college access for undocumented students.

Undocumented Immigrant Students

An estimated 65,000 undocumented students graduate from American high schools each year. These children are guaranteed a primary and secondary education, but face social, legal, and financial barriers on the pathway to higher education. Research conducted by the Urban Institute showed that of undocumented students ages 18-24, only 10% of males and 16% of females are enrolled in college. There are three specific and significant obstacles undocumented students face on their paths to higher education.

Undocumented students and even college advisors may assume that they cannot legally attend college in the United States. This is false. There is no federal law prohibiting admission to public or private U.S. colleges. In fact, federal and state laws do not require students to prove citizenship when enrolling at higher education institutions. Unfortunately some states (like Georgia and South Carolina) ban public universities from accepting undocumented students. However, Missouri has no such ban.

Many states have debated whether to allow undocumented students to be charged in-state tuition rates. In a number of states, public institutions will accept undocumented students but treat them as international or nonresidential students, thus charging them at those rates. During the 2014 legislative session, the Missouri House and Senate inserted language into the budget bill that requires publicly-funded institutions to charge out-of-state or international tuition rates to undocumented students if those institutions expect to receive the state funds on which they depend.

Financial Aid
Undocumented students are not eligible to receive any federal student financial aid. This includes loans, Pell Grants, and federal work-study. In Missouri, these students are ineligible for state financial aid. Private institutions set their own financial aid policies and some offer aid to undocumented students.

As a nation, we have invested in primary and secondary education for undocumented students. Programs such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), creates new opportunities to support students who arrived in this country as children and have graduated from U.S. high schools. The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis sees education as the transformative power that can strengthen the well-being of an individual and community. In April 2014, the Foundation expanded its eligibility requirements for interest-free loans and grants to include DACA students. (See article on page 4.) The Scholarship Foundation, board members, and partners recognize that now is the time to support and position these students to achieve their goals and contribute to our community and economy.

As part of her Education Policy Internship with The Scholarship Foundation, Karina wrote the preceding summary of her research topic.