Students Create Scholarship to Help Send Undocumented Teens to College

In the upcoming academic year, one undocumented student will receive a full ride to Prescott College.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Apr 7, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

With college costs continuing to climb in the United States and students graduating with mountains of debt, it’s not often that students get excited about additional fees. But many students at Prescott College in Arizona are happy to fork over a little extra cash to help out their undocumented peers.

This week, college officials announced a new scholarship program called the Freedom Education Fund that will offer one undocumented student a full ride to the small liberal arts school for the 2016–17 academic year. Students will see an additional $30 tacked on to their $28,000 annual tuition bill to fuel the fund.

“Within the current political landscape of Arizona it is critical that Prescott College shows our commitment to education as a human right,” Miriel Manning, a graduate student at Prescott College and founder of the fund, said in a statement. Manning led the initiative and gathered petition signatures from a majority of the college’s students in favor of the fee.

College officials estimate that in the first year the fees collected from students will bring in about $15,000. The remaining cost of attendance for the undocumented student will be made up through a grant from the school.

Not everyone is pleased with the plan. Conservative pundits are criticizing the school for letting students shoulder the cost of tuition for an undocumented student, given that America’s collective student loan debt is more than $1.2 trillion.

Individual students can request to opt out of the fee, but Manning told the Phoenix New Times that her Prescott peers are “overwhelmingly supportive.”

“Students were excited about it. They were inspired and motivated to actually get more involved,” Manning added.

Nationwide, about 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school every year, but only about 10 percent of those graduates go on to college, often owing to cost.

Undocumented students are unable to receive federal financial aid for college. While a handful of states—California, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington—offer state grants or loans to eligible undocumented students, many states have set up additional barriers, from outright enrollment bans to higher fees.

Alabama and South Carolina do not allow undocumented students to attend public universities, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Georgia, Indiana, and Arizona allow undocumented students to attend public colleges, but even if they live in-state, they’re required to pay the out-of-state rate.

While other states and universities offer scholarships specifically geared to undocumented students, Prescott’s student-funded plan is the first of its kind in Arizona. Earlier this year, Loyola University Chicago implemented a similar plan, with students paying $2.50 per semester to fund the scholarship.

Although Prescott College allows undocumented students to apply for merit-based aid, Manning noted that full financial assistance is still hard to find.

“This scholarship is just so necessary,” Manning told the Arizona Republic. “This [fee] is a small amount compared to the impact it can make for a student to come here.”