Preventing undocumented students from receiving federal financial aid not only hurts the students, it hurts American society. Annually, an estimated 65,000 undocumented students who obtain a high school diploma are eligible to pursue higher education. Unfortunately, many of these students do not pursue higher education. A potential explanation for this is that the cost of college prohibits students from enrolling.
Costs prohibit many people from enrolling in college. Undocumented students, however, have additional challenges because they cannot receive federal financial aid. This impediment harms their chance for success. High school graduates have the potential to participate in American society as hardworking and educated individuals when given the academic opportunity to succeed. But the ban from federal financial aid puts undocumented students at a great disadvantage.
Research suggests that a higher education benefits undocumented students. Education can lead to societal involvement. According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, education is a strong indicator for civic participation among immigrants. Additionally, the completion of higher education ensures more sustainable income. The Migration Policy Institute identifies postsecondary education as a vital stepping stone to a decent paying career. Although this only highlights a few possible outcomes, investing in the potential of undocumented students has clear benefits.
Until undocumented students can receive federal financial aid, alternative strategies are necessary. One approach is to obtain employment authorization through the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA temporarily protects eligible undocumented youth and young adults from deportation, and provides employment authorization for two-year renewable terms. While DACA students are still prohibited from receiving federal financial aid, this program does provide more financial stability via legal employment options.
Another alternative is to provide scholarships for eligible undocumented students. Academic institutions of higher education play an important role in providing alternative financial strategies for undocumented students pursuing college. Loyola University Chicago exemplifies what these alternatives can look like. Loyola created the necessary financial support for undocumented students through the Magis Scholarship Fund for Undocumented Students. Additionally, Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine is the first university nationwide to welcome DACA students. This demonstrates institutional leadership in addressing the financial challenges that undocumented and DACA students face when pursuing higher education.
Programs like DACA and leadership among academic institutions of higher education such as Loyola are a step in the right direction to ensure that we have an educated populace and access to higher education is available to all qualifying students, regardless of immigration status. If these students are not given the opportunity to succeed, then our society loses out on the potential of many hardworking and educated students.
For more information on DACA and Loyola:access to education, DACA, undocumented students