STLCC: Undocumented Students with U.S. High School Diplomas Can Pay In-State Tuition

Categories: Education

universidadya_college_fair.jpg
Universidad Ya!
Students at a college fair held by Universidad Ya!
After an adjustment to its enrollment policy, St. Louis Community College will now allow undocumented immigrant students with a U.S. high school diploma to pay in-jurisdiction tuition rates, a move that is celebrated by Latino groups as a huge step forward for immigrant youth.

According to STLCC's new policy, "Undocumented Students with a US high school transcript will be admitted to St. Louis Community College and will be eligible to pay maintenance fees based on their residence in accordance with existing residency requirements. Undocumented students are not eligible for federal financial aid."

Universidad Ya!, a Washington University-affiliated program that helps undocumented immigrant students get into college, celebrated the move as an important step forward for Latino immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and grew up as Americans.

Virginia Braxs, Spanish professor at Washington University and president of Universidad Ya!, says the change from international tuition rates to in-jurisdiction rates will help undocumented and DACA (deferred action for childhood arrivals) students finish college. Those students were and still are ineligible for federal aid, but Braxs says the increased tuition rates made it all the more difficult to get a degree.

"This community of young people is graduating from high school," Braxs tells Daily RFT. "They face huge barriers. They make great sacrifices -- all my students work-part time through high school and college to contribute to their families. It's really a struggle because you don't have too much time to study if you have to work and you're contributing to your family. But at the same time, you want to finish and go on."

Immigration is one of those "hot-button" polarizing topics in the U.S. these days and many argue that allowing in-state or in-jurisdiction tuition to undocumented students is detrimental to taxpayers, but Braxs says that's not true.

See also: Wash U, SLU, and UMSTL Combine Forces To Study St. Louis Latino Population

"[Undocumented students] cannot apply to federal aid, so, on the contrary, we are benefiting from the taxes they pay because they are working, but they do not get any benefit," she says. "So that's a misconception that people have."

Braxs further explained that young immigrants who qualified for DACA status were given social security numbers and work permits, so they pay taxes. However, they are still ineligible for federal aid, meaning their tuition is paid through private means, either out-of-pocket or scholarships.

The STLCC move is a step forward, but Braxs says the immigrant advocacy community is still waiting on the answers to bigger questions regarding the statuses of immigrant youth in the U.S., such as what kind of residency and immigration status they should be allowed to have.

"We have very intelligent, bright, young people with college degrees that can contribute to the region, be a financial benefit for the region if they had a legal status and residency," Braxs says. "But that will depend on Congress from now on."

See also: Undocumented Immigrants: Illinois Driver's License Bill Now Law, Fourth State With Policy

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E-mail him at Ray.Downs@RiverfrontTimes.com.

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23 comments
Stephen Martin
Stephen Martin

Well, that's your own fault. You need to get out more.

Sharon Gladney
Sharon Gladney

I'm not gonna even read this crap and yet USA citizens can't get unemployment gtfoh

Stephen Martin
Stephen Martin

Oh, one more thing. While these folks may lack citizenship documentation, they do indeed live in Missouri. I would assume that if one were an undocumented immigrant living in Illinois, they'd still have to pay out-of-state tuition.

Brandon Herges
Brandon Herges

What? There's hardly a parallel there. I've never heard anybody call an unregistered firearm in the hands of a convicted felon "undocumented" and continuously try to change terminology from "illegal" so they don't hurt the felon's feelings.

Stephen Martin
Stephen Martin

Liz, are there no community colleges in Illinois where they could pay in-state tuition?

Stephen Martin
Stephen Martin

Strange. When it's something like immigration, we say "illegal" and that ends the discussion. But when it's something like regulating guns or telling people they can't discriminate against gays anymore, then the fact that something is "illegal" doesn't seem to slow anybody down.

Ryan Conway
Ryan Conway

You're right. Now if you live in Illinois, the most taxes you'll pay to Missouri is sales tax. Not income tax. Not real estate tax. Not personal property tax. You might as well ask why you can't get in-state rates for New York or California. It doesn't matter how close you live to a state, your not in-state unless your actually live...in-state. BTW, check out UMSL. They do exactly what you want. Why my tax dollars subsidize Illinois, I'm not sure, but the do.

Ðan Koester
Ðan Koester

This is huge! An RFT article that had few editorial mistakes and decent transitions. Consider my mind BLOWN.

Liz Kaucher
Liz Kaucher

None, that I'm aware of. I do not face this problem, since I am a resident. The students I know that have this issue say they are met with the same reply no matter who they speak with. "Sorry. You live in Illinois and must pay out of state."

Andrew Bell
Andrew Bell

So lets fix both, one doesn't have to lose out to another! What kind of plans have been suggested for fixing the ILL/MO problem?

Liz Kaucher
Liz Kaucher

I never said it was taking anything. I do hear excuses from the college that "rules are rules" and they turn their backs to students from Illinois that can no longer afford out of state tuition. Yet here we have a clear example of it being possible to change the rules in order to help someone out. How is it ok for a student that lives 20 min away to have to stop attending classes because tuition is too high? If you don't have documentation, they can help you with no problem? I'm not saying I'm against helping those undocumented. It just blows me away that they can fix a problem like this but turn their backs to other students because their address is 4 miles in the wrong direction.

Andrew Bell
Andrew Bell

How is this taking away from struggling students?

Liz Kaucher
Liz Kaucher

Actually, I am pretty much the opposite of that. I am not against support of undocumented students. I am just wondering why it's one set of rules for one group, and yet struggling students in other areas are not given the same help. Don't assume you know what someone is like from their position on one topic.

Andrew Bell
Andrew Bell

The same people criticizing this action are the same telling people to "speak our language", "be productive", and "find a job".

Marc Seleman
Marc Seleman

That is crap. My taxes paying for this. WTF?

Liz Kaucher
Liz Kaucher

Wow, thanks for clearing that up. The point is, if you extend these residential courtesies to a group of people that could possibly not pay taxes, period, then why not extend in state tuition to those that live so close and probably spend a fair amount of their money in Missouri? The reason in state tuition is supposed to be cheaper is mainly due to how much you have paid into taxes as a resident.

Ryan Conway
Ryan Conway

Because Illinois' not in Missouri...

Liz Kaucher
Liz Kaucher

Yet students that live 15-30 minutes away in Illinois have to pay out if state rates? :/

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