Washington State Senate Considers Expanding College Financial Aid to Dreamers

January 31, 2018 4:45 pm
by David Jakeman

If only lawmakers in Washington DC could get their act together like their counterparts in Washington state. At the end of January, Washington state senators voted to expand undocumented students’ access to state money for college. The bill passed 38-11: all Democrats and half of Republicans voted for it. A similar bill is working its way through the Washington state House of Representatives. Seatac immigration lawyers are thrilled that the state is concerned about the needs of such a vulnerable population.

Legislative History and Requirements

The Senate bill is meant to expand the number of financial aid resources available to undocumented students, giving them access to grants, loans, and scholarships funded by the state. This expansion builds off of previous legislation: the REAL Hope Act, passed in 2014. Previous to that, Washington state passed HB 1079 in 2003, which allowed undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition. 1

In order to qualify for in-state tuition and financial aid, students must meet certain requirements. They must be able to prove that they have been in Washington state for at least three years before earning a high school diploma.

Widening the Reach of Financial Aid

The 2014 legislation was enacted to give undocumented students access to financial aid through the State Need Grant. However, since this program is not fully funded, it runs out of money before helping all those who are eligible. This new legislation gives undocumented students access to the College Bound program, which guarantees financial help for low-income students who sign up for the program in the seventh or eighth grade, as long as they stay out of trouble with the law and graduate from high school with a C average. There have been a number of students who didn’t know they were undocumented immigrants who signed up for the program in middle school only to find out they were ineligible because of their immigration status.

The current bill also would give undocumented students from low or middle income families financial aid if they study science, technology, engineering, math, or health care in college.

Part of the Solution

These various legislative measures acknowledge the enormous financial burden that higher education imposes on most students. Without access to financial aid, whether through loans, grants, or scholarships, the financial requirements of a college education are out of reach for most students. This expansion of the law helps address some of the serious concerns that young, undocumented immigrants face trying to live in the United States. Of course, it doesn’t solve all their immigration concerns – only the federal government has the power to solve the bigger problems.

1 – https://www.dailyrecordnews.com/news/state-senate-votes-to-extend-college-financial-aid-to-dreamers/article_16bc7721-d08b-5c22-8f65-aa11abc84497.html

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