Delaware State opens doors to ‘locked-out’ undocumented students

(L-R) Delaware Gov. Jack Markell

(L-R) Delaware Gov. Jack Markell

Delaware State University announced Tuesday it will be one of two colleges to enroll undocumented students through a novel, privately-financed scholarship program.

The scholarship, offered by a non-profit organization called TheDream.US, is available to students who live in states that either don’t allow undocumented immigrants to enroll in state schools or require undocumented students to pay out-of-state tuition.

Students from any of these “locked-out” states–including Pennsylvania–will receive as much as $80,000 to attend either Delaware State or Eastern Connecticut State University if they win an “Opportunity Scholarship.”

The organization intends to award 500 such scholarships, all of them privately financed. It’s not yet known how many of those scholarships will go to students attending Delaware State, but university officials anticipate enrolling somewhere between 20 and 70 students per year through the program.

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“This partnership will add to Delaware State’s incredible legacy of creating new opportunities for students to get a great education and pursue their dreams,” Delaware Governor Jack Markell said

Eligible students must also have a high school GPA of 2.8 or higher, have arrived in the U.S. before turning 16, and be entering college for the first time. Recipients will be awarded up to $20,000 per year.

This is the second scholarship program launched by TheDream.US, which was co-founded by former Washington Post CEO Don Graham.

The organization’s “National Scholarship” provides up to $6,250 per year for undocumented students attending one of over 70 partner institutions. Students from all states are eligible to receive the “National Scholarship.”

“Education is an American value; we should help every student who has worked hard to go to college,” Graham said, whose co-founders include his wife, journalist Amanda Bennett, Carlos Gutierrez, the former Secretary of Commerce under George W. Bush, and Henry Munoz III, finance chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Delaware’s public institutions already award in-state tuition to undocumented students, although the policy has not been formally adopted by the legislature. Previous attempts to codify the practice in state law have either failed or stalled.

Undocumented immigrants aren’t eligible for pell grants, the federal government’s main organ for providing tuition assistance to disadvantaged students. In many states, undocumented students face the additional burden of paying out-of-state tuition.

“That’s why I’m pleased to learn that TheDream.US will soon help more students attend Delaware State University by helping them overcome out-of-date laws that keep young people, who are here in the United States legally but aren’t American citizens, from accessing in-state tuition and other provisions that make education more affordable,” Senator Chris Coons, D-Del., said.

His congressional colleagues, Senator Tom Carper, D-Del. and U.S. Representative John Carney, D-Del., also endorsed the program.

Delaware State, a historically black college, has expanded outreach to international and Hispanic students in recent years. The university enrolled 226 Hispanic students at the beginning of 2014, up from 69 students in 2008. Total enrollment is 4,644.

“This exciting partnership with TheDream.US falls right in line with Delaware State University’s mission of providing access and opportunity for diverse populations,” University President Harry Williams said.  “In addition, this partnership will help the university stay on its current upward trend of growth and sustainability.”

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