Should Community Colleges Give Scholarships to Illegal Immigrants?

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Should Community Colleges Give Scholarships to Illegal Immigrants?
Amidst major immigration controversy in the country, some community colleges are in the spotlight for giving undocumented immigrants scholarships. Learn more about both sides of the debate.
As the illegal immigration debate continues to rage, another aspect of the issue comes to light. A community college in California has set up a scholarship fund that is available to illegal immigrants, as well as legal residents of the United States, according to a report on Fox News. While the foundation responsible for the scholarship is receiving a considerable amount of flack, it turns out there are other scholarship avenues for illegal immigrants to explore as well.
As Fastweb notes: "Federal law passed in 1996 prohibits illegal aliens from receiving in-state tuition rates at public institutions of higher education. Specifically, Section 505 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 states: "an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State (or a political subdivision) for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident."

Several states -- California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington -- have passed state laws providing in-state tuition benefits to illegal aliens who have attended high school in the state for three or more years."

The Immigration Question
Most immigrant students seeking scholarship money hold green cards or have permanent residency in this country. However, there are also numerous illegal immigrants who have been brought into this country by their parents and grew up as Americans, even if they don't have the documentation to prove it. Much discussion has begun over whether these students are entitled to any type of financial aid to help pay for their higher education.
The immigration debate has been fueled by both new Arizona legislation and increasing concerns over border security. Fox News reports on a recent alert sent out by the Department of Homeland Security regarding a Somali man with terror ties who the agency believes is trying to cross the Mexican border into the United States.
This TEDTalk discusses the issue of scholarships for undocumented students.
Controversy at Santa Ana College
The recent announcement of a new memorial scholarship at Santa Ana College in honor of former student Tan Ngoc Tran has sparked an additional furor. Tran was a student leader and immigrant-rights activist who graduated from Santa Ana College and was currently pursuing a doctorate at Brown University. Tran was killed by a drunk driver a few short weeks ago. She was also on the path to U.S. citizenship, according to a report on U.S. News and World Report.
The memorial scholarship is comprised of private donations that currently amount to approximately $2,500. Because the school is a public institution, there is an outcry over taxpayer dollars going to benefit those in this country illegally. However, Sara Lundquist, Vice President of Student Affairs at Santa Ana College, says that the scholarship will be used to help a student on the path to citizenship.
"Tam dedicated her time and energy advocating for children of undocumented immigrants who were brought into this country and grew up as Americans, but are not even permanent residents," Lundquist said in the U.S. News and World Report article.
Lundquist adds that the goal of the school is to make this scholarship an annual opportunity for students who maintain a 3.0 average and show a financial need. The college will also look for applicants who want to enroll in a four-year university after their community college career is complete.
What the Scholarship’s Opponents Have to Say
Not everyone believes the Santa Ana College memorial scholarship is a step in the right direction, however. Representative Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., told Fox News that the scholarship diverts funds from Americans who need it.
"The fact that a public employee of a public college is seeking to circumvent immigration laws is problematic," Rohrabacher said. "The fact that it's being associated with a public institution means that there are public funds involved: If you have a fund being operated by public employees, it's public."  
Other Sources of Funding
The Santa Ana College scholarship is not the only funding source for undocumented residents of this country. According to information found on, there are numerous sources of financial aid that do not require documentation of citizenship as part of the application process. Some states have passed legislation that provides in-state tuition benefits to students who have attended high school in the state for at least three years. They do not ask if the students are in the states legally as a part of their application package.
There are also other private scholarships available to illegal aliens that do not require documentation of citizenship before the funds are awarded. reports that Microsoft scholarships are just one that does not require proof of U.S. citizenship. Instead, students must show commitment to a computer science or related major. Geneseo Migrant Center Scholarships are also helpful to needy students of migrant workers, and donations for these scholarships continue to grow.
This video suggests ways to pay for undocumented students to pay for their community college education.
While the immigration debate rolls on, more and more issues are coming to the forefront. Santa Ana College is just one of the institutions around the country that is recognizing the plight of students who have grown up in this country but have no documentation to support their residency. As the plight of these students continues to become more public, perhaps immigration reform will encompass the needs of these individuals, as well as the rest of the illegal immigrants who live and work in the United States.
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