College teams with TheDream.US to help undocumented students

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Gene Ramirez, associate director of scholarships and financial aid at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, shows English freshman Viviana Ramirez how to apply for a scholarship Feb. 16 in the Mexican-American studies center in Room 100 of Chance. The university’s representatives met with students to sign up for TheDream.US scholarship and other financial aid opportunities. The scholarship is for undocumented students brought to the U.S. by their parents from Mexico before their 16th birthday. Photo by Michelle Delgado

Each Dreamer can receive up to $25,000 in scholarship money.

By Samantha L. Alonso

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

This college is partnering with TheDream.US to help undocumented students pay tuition, and the deadline to apply for scholarships is March 8.

The national scholarship program began three years ago, but this is the first year this college is an official partner institution.

Two groups can apply: undocumented high school students who will start attending this college in fall 2017 and current undocumented students at this college who are transferring to Texas A&M University-San Antonio or any of the colleges and universities that partner with TheDream.US, said Mariano Aguilar, English and Mexican-American studies professor.

Under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, undocumented students who were brought here by their parents can work and attend college without the fear of deportation.

“The executive branch made an agreement with DACA applicants to provide them a level of protection,” Aguilar said.

Scholarship applicants must be eligible for DACA or have applied or received approval for DACA or temporary protection status.

Aguilar hosted an information session Feb. 16 at this college’s Mexican-American studies center.

The scholarships are not for current students who will return to this college in fall 2017, he said.

For transfer students, the only partner institution in this city is currently Texas A&M-San Antonio, Aguilar said.

However, other Texas colleges participating in TheDream.US include the University of Houston, the University of North Texas at Dallas and the University of Texas at El Paso. Out-of-state colleges include California State University, Long Beach; Florida State University; Colorado State University; and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

If selected, students should expect to receive funds no later than June, Aguilar said.

The scholarships are for fall 2017 through spring 2018.

The Dream.US scholarships are funded by corporations and foundations including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, Robin Hood Foundation, the Coca-Cola Foundation and the PepsiCo Foundation.

There is $140 million available for students nationwide, he said.

Radio-television-broadcasting sophomore Leonardo Hernandez attended the information session.

“I’m wanting to do something with my life, not just stay stuck,” Hernandez said. “If the opportunity comes, you should take it.”

Hernandez, who is originally from Mexico City and came to the United States when he was 9, said he currently relies solely on financial aid to pay for his college tuition and expenses.

Aguilar said this college is hoping to get at least 20 applicants who are transferring to four-year universities.

“We’re starting small, and we want to build from that number,” Aguilar said.

So far, there are 66 undocumented high school students who are applying for the scholarship to attend this college, he said.

A Feb. 17, 2015, article by Julia Glum in the International Business Times said there are 225,000 undocumented students estimated to be enrolled in U.S. colleges.

According to Texas Higher Education data, the number of Hispanics to earn a college degree or certification has doubled from just under 40,000 to almost 80,000 over a 13-year span.

Over the past three years TheDream.US has helped 1,700 students and has paid out $14 million in scholarships.

Texans qualify for the program’s National Scholarship Award, which covers a maximum of $12,500 for an associate degree and $25,000 for a bachelor’s degree. The award can be renewed yearly as long as the student continues to meet the eligibility criteria: remaining a full-time student and maintaining a 3.0 GPA.

TheDream.US does consider GPA and test scores in the selection process, but the program also considers background, challenges and barriers overcome by students.

To apply, visit www.thedream.us. Students transferring from this college can call Aguilar at 210-486-0651. High school students can call Chaye Peña, director of outreach and recruitment, at 210-486-1209.

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