Gonzaga student gov scales back illegal immigrant scholarship

The Gonzaga University student government is pushing through a $2,500 scholarship per year for illegal immigrants, but is no longer planning to fund the program with a tuition increase.

According to The Gonzaga Bulletin, the Gonzaga Student Body Association (GSBA) approved legislation last year creating the scholarship, which was originally intended to be funded through a $2.50 per year tuition, which all students would have to pay unless they consciously chose to opt-out.

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La Raza Latina President Amayrani Chavez, who helped to devise the bill, downplayed the significance of the tuition increase, saying, “If you’re able to help someone, why wouldn’t you?” 

Some senators expressed reservations about the proposal, however, fretting that it could spark a backlash from the student body.

“My main concern is as soon as the student body hears of it passing and that GSBA as a whole took a stand for this, if there’s a resounding no [from the student body], there’s going to be serious backlash against the GSBA and other groups,” Sen. Matt Schaffer said during the initial debate.

In a similar vein, Sen. Tyler Sudeck, who also voted against the resolution, argued that students should have to opt-in for the tuition increase, rather than opt-out.

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Now, roughly one year after the scholarship was first approved, the GSBA Senate has decided to do away with the tuition increase entirely, instead relying on private donations to fund the program, according to the Bulletin.

“There isn’t any other scholarship [at Gonzaga] that is raised with students’ tuition. That hasn’t happened before,” said Sen. Rafael Castellanos-Welch, who is a current member of the student senate and leads the Undocumented Student Scholarship program.

“With our original idea of having the scholarship through tuition and that not having that clarified last year that that couldn’t happen, that was just a big waste of our time,” he added.

The Senate’s new goal is to raise at least $50,000 so the scholarship is able to meet the minimum amount required to become endowed. Even at that level, though, the fund would only be able to disburse about $2,500 per year, so supporters are hoping to exceed that fundraising goal.

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Dr. Raymond Reyes, the associate academic vice president and chief diversity officer at GU as well as an adviser on the scholarship, applauded the Senate’s decision as a victory for freedom of choice.

“I think social justice and these issues around equity and inclusion or care for others needs to be a conscious choice,” he told the Bulletin. “The students decided that it would be more fair and just to insert the element of freedom of choice.”

Reyes also explained that the delay in implementing the scholarship came about due to turnover in the Student Senate, as new representatives replaced those who had worked on the original resolution.

“We lost some momentum and lost some traction and luckily a few students stepped up and said, ‘let’s pick this back up,’” he noted, “but by that time it was already halfway through the academic year.”

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Under the original funding plan, the scholarship was projected to go into effect for illegal immigrants attending Gonzaga in the Fall of 2018, but supporters are now projecting that even in the best-case scenario, the fund will not reach endowment status until the 2019-2020 school year.

In the event that donations are not forthcoming, however, that timeline could be pushed back by several years, assuming the fund even collects enough money to reach endowment status.

“We are trying to get it endowed, so that way, even if it’s a small scholarship in the beginning it still becomes a part of the Gonzaga fabric,” Castellanos-Welch said, adding that senators are looking to solicit support from the school community because “it would be a lot easier to market this as more open if the faculty, senate, and students want this.”

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