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School creates scholarships for undocumented immigrant students

Every high school senior in Lancaster County dreads the question, "What will you be doing next year?" but it is one that is particularly frustrating for teenagers who were brought to this country illegally as children. They may believe college is out of reach because they cannot access federal financial aid and, in only a few states, can they receive in-state funding. The prospect of paying full tuition, even if they can receive in-state tuition in Pennsylvania, may be too much for many undocumented immigrants. One school, however, has recently set up a million-dollar scholarship fund specifically for undocumented immigrants.

Though this is not the first such scholarship to be established, and there may be others like it in Pennsylvania, it is by far the largest. The scholarship aims to help about 200 students who were brought to the country as children. Named in honor of the DREAM Act, the federal bill that would have granted this same group of young people a way to become legal permanent residents, the scholarship will start early in 2013.

Some have criticized the scholarship, however, as being too difficult for many undocumented immigrants to qualify for, as applicants need to have at least a 3.0 grade-point average. According to one undocumented student, most undocumented students are working one or more jobs while studying. Many of them are also partially responsible for their family members and dealing with the stress that comes with the constant threat of deportation. All of these things can prevent a student from doing as well as he or she might otherwise do and preclude many students from the scholarship.

Fortunately, however, the scholarship committee still encourages undocumented students with lower GPAs to apply, too.

In total, the scholarship will provide students with $8,000, a substantial sum as they try to pursue higher education.

It remains to be seen if schools in Pennsylvania will start to implement similar programs for their undocumented students.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Undocumented Student Scholarships: UC Berkeley Sets $1 Million Fund To Help Dreamers," Aaron Sankin, Dec. 11, 2012

Discover more about the doors a green card can open by visiting our Lancaster naturalization and citizenship web page.

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