- House Democrats approved a narrow immigration bill on Tuesday that would grant legal status to more than 2 million immigrants, including those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
- The American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 passed in the House in a 237-187 vote. Among its provisions are 10 years of permanent status for DACA recipients if certain conditions are met, including some related to education, though it doesn't include language found in the original version making them eligible for federal aid.
- The bill is not expected to pass in the Republican-controlled Senate, reflecting partisan debate over immigration that has left states and colleges working out their own approaches to financial aid for these students.
DACA, which was established in 2012 under the Obama administration, grants temporary legal status to immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children. The Trump administration has since proposed to end the program, making nearly 1 million young adults eligible for deportation.
Amid this uncertainty, college students living in the U.S. without legal permission are encountering restrictions on receiving and affording education. Three states ban offering them in-state tuition rates, and two states prohibit them from enrolling in public colleges. However, 18 states offer some form of in-state tuition.
Several public and private colleges also offer institutional aid to DACA recipients, as do advocacy groups such as TheDream.US, which has provided $60 million in scholarships as of last fall.
But some college officials say current aid options aren't enough.
"At private institutions across the country, the total cost of tuition, room and board could be anywhere from the [$40,000s] up to as high as the [$70,000s]," said Mary-Alice Ozechoski, vice president of enrollment management and student affairs at Cedar Crest College, a private women's institution in Pennsylvania. "Even if the institution gives you a $20,000 scholarship in your financial aid award, you're still having to come up with a huge amount of money, and you're having to work a huge amount of hours."
DACA students also cannot readily participate in common ways to earn income and experience in college, such as on-campus employment, internships and study abroad programs.
Soft skills like cultural competency and an understanding of the workplace environment, Ozechoski said, are highly desired of employees in the job market today.
Kenneth Mashinchi, senior public information officer at the University of California, Merced, said the school is closely monitoring the bill and remains optimistic about its chances in the Senate, but added that "it could be an uphill battle."
UC Merced is one of 32 colleges participating in a state initiative to expand resources for "undocumented students and their families," according to the fund. In a statement last March, UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland said the university enrolled around 600 students living in the U.S. without legal permission.
Other ways colleges can support DACA students include increasing financial aid and offering access to legal support or a dedicated point of contact who can direct students to on-campus resources, as Cedar Crest does.