OMAHA, Neb. ― Two Nebraska colleges have quietly set up private endowments to provide scholarships for undocumented immigrants who don’t qualify for financial aid.
The Omaha World-Herald reports that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has promised people brought illegally into the U.S. as children by undocumented parents that they won’t face deportation and will have a right to legal work. But these young people, often referred to as “Dreamers,” still don’t qualify for state or federal government-funded aid to help pay for college.
Twenty-eight students have graduated through the College of St. Mary’s program over the last 10 years. Additionally, the University of Nebraska at Omaha launched a scholarship for Dreamers this year through a private donation.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney has said it hopes to follow suit.
Dania Cervantes, 19, was born in Mexico and came to the United States when she was 6 years old. She wasn’t able to apply for federal aid or loans, but she enrolled in nursing school through the College of St. Mary’s scholarship.
The scholarship covers tuition and housing for as many undocumented women as the college’s donors can support each year.
“If I didn’t get this scholarship, there is no way my parents could afford college for me,” said Cervantes, a freshman.
Undocumented students who graduate from Nebraska high schools can pay the in-state tuition rate at public state colleges. But that cost is often still out of reach without financial aid.
Even if undocumented students enroll in a community college rather than a state university or a private college, paying for school is challenging, said Zenen Jaimes Perez, a policy analyst at United We Dream, an advocacy group for immigrant youths based in Washington, D.C.
“We try to encourage colleges and universities to look at what they have available, so we can see more students able to take advantage of it,” said. “I do think there is more that public institutions could be doing to be opening up resources for undocumented students.”
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the state colleges don’t have a scholarship program for undocumented students.