In Amherst, Massachusetts, Hampshire College has begun a scholarship fund earmarked for a select group of college hopefuls: illegal immigrants. The scholarship plans to give $25,000 to one student each year who lives in the U.S. but does not hold U.S. citizenship so that he or she can earn a degree. The first recipient received the scholarship for 2012-2013 school year.
The fund has $300,000 so far that was donated by alumni, students, parents, and other donors at Hampshire College. Currently, undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts must pay out-of-state tuition to attend college, with Hampshire charging $43,000 in yearly tuition. The federal government does not give any financial aid to illegal immigrants.
A handful of other colleges and universities also offer scholarships specifically for illegal immigrants, but this is the first in Massachusetts. States vary on their handling of the issue of whether to let illegal immigrants attend college and if they should receive discount rates. Most states treat them as international students and charge out-of-state tuition rates, with thirteen offering in-state tuition. Three states allow illegal immigrants to receive state financial aid, but three others – Georgia, Colorado, and South Carolina – ban them from attending state colleges and universities.
The issue is a controversial one and it has many facets to it. A 1982 court decision guarantees illegal immigrants a K-12 education, and an estimated 65,000 graduate from high school each year. From this 65,000, only 5-10 percent apply for college, with financial hurdles causing the main hardship.
On the one hand, is America saying that illegal immigrants are welcome to finish high school but get no further in life? Isn’t this the land of opportunity? But from another perspective, why should people who are here illegally get special discount rates to attend college? College is expensive for most people, whether undocumented or citizens.
Donors at Hampshire college decided that it’s unfair that some students are unable to get a degree because of their immigration status. The professor who started the fund hopes to grow it to $1 million so that it will become a permanent and sustainable fund.
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