UF offers in-state tuition for illegal immigrants

The University of Florida (UF) will now offer waivers enabling illegal immigrant students to receive in-state tuition.

According to The Independent Florida Alligator, the new policy was devised by administrators working with a student organization called UF CHISPAS, which seeks to “address the pressing needs and issues of the immigrant community through education and awareness.”

Prior to the decision, illegal immigrants, including those covered by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), could not qualify for in-state tuition regardless of how long they had resided in the state.

Because a student must be a U.S. citizen or must maintain U.S. residency (have a green card) in order to obtain aid for college tuition, illegal immigrants are also ineligible for federal or state financial aid, including grants and loans.

CHISPAS, however, considers this restriction to be contrary to its mission of promoting “equal rights, fair treatment, and the empowerment of the immigrant community,” and worked with the UF administration to implement the waivers as a means of providing other types of financial assistance to illegal immigrant students.

Under the new program, the UF Office for Student Financial Affairs website explains, “undocumented students” will be allowed to apply for an out-of-state fee waiver provided that they both “attended a secondary school in Florida for three consecutive years immediately before graduating from a high school in this state,” and also “applied for enrollment in an institute of higher education within 24 months after high school graduation.”

“It makes college go from being out-of-reach for almost all of us to still difficult, but very much doable,” Giancarlo Tejeda, a Colombian immigrant, told the Alligator. “This waiver made going to college here at UF possible.”

The old policy “used to make it nearly impossible for someone who [is] undocumented to go to UF or other state universities or schools,” added CHISPAS president Mariana Castro, who noted that while she is pleased with the change, “UF could still do a lot more.”

In addition to pressuring the university for support, the student group has also taken steps on its own to make higher education more accessible to the illegal immigrant community, notably through an annual scholarship established in 2012.

This year, the “Out of the Shadows” scholarship fund will provide two $600 scholarships for “undocumented” students, one each to a college student and a high school senior.

According to its website, “CHISPAS is still the only student organization that specifically serves immigrants in the Gainesville area and addresses the issues they face.”

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