Undocumented students talk financial aid, University resources

Monday, March 25, 2019 - 10:23pm

Students and faculty gather at the Here to Stay: Undocumented Students at the University of Michigan event hosted by the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives and SCOPE at the University Career Center Monday evening.

Students and faculty gather at the Here to Stay: Undocumented Students at the University of Michigan event hosted by the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives and SCOPE at the University Career Center Monday evening. Buy this photo
Claire Meingast/Daily

The names of some sources have been excluded due to their undocumented status. 

Monday night, the Student Community of Progressive Empowerment, a University of Michigan organization that aims to support undocumented and “DACAmented” students on campus, held their first public event with about 50 people in attendance in the Student Activities Building. The event, entitled Here to Stay: Undocumented Students at U-M focused on the experiences of undocumented students at the University and initiatives SCOPE is hoping to achieve in the coming years. They also discussed resources for undocumented students and how allies can become involved in advocacy.

Before the event, SCOPE member Barbara Diaz, an LSA senior, explained the importance of the event and what she wished more people knew about undocumented students.

“Undocumented students are students here,” Diaz said. “I think a lot of the time people forget that we kind of exist and that we’re part of this campus community.”

The event began with a video produced by SCOPE about the effect the organization had on its members. Those who appeared in the video gave advice to prospective students, urging them to “not to give up when applying to U-M,” and to “have courage and be brave.”

The first student member of SCOPE who spoke at the event discussed the difficulty of being ineligible for certain financial assistance. He explained how in previous years the University has not given in-state tuition to undocumented students, despite them having lived and attending school in Michigan for the majority of their life.

“They’re good enough to attend U-M, but don’t think they can,” he said. “They claim to be the leaders and the best — let’s see it.”

Another SCOPE member who spoke later in the event also discussed the struggles surrounding financial aid for undocumented students. She told a story about her own experience applying to the University — when someone from the Office of Financial Aid came to her high school, she asked a question about how she could receive aid with her DACA status. The representative told her he wasn’t sure what to do, and advised her to email the Financial Aid Office, something she had already done.

The second speaker, also a student member of SCOPE, discussed actions the organization has taken in previous years. According to the student, after the election of President Donald Trump and the increased uncertainty surrounding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, SCOPE issued a list of requests to the University.

The organization requested the University fully meet DACA students’ financial need, hire a staff member to serve as a primary contact for DACA students and increase access to information for prospective undocumented students, among other things.

Hector Galvan, who works as the Undocumented Student Program Manager in the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives, also spoke at the event. He explained his role — to advise undocumented and “DACAmented” students and collaborate across campus to serve these students. He also gave information about resources available to undocumented students, including Student Legal Services and a website specifically for undocumented students.

The last student member to speak discussed his experience as an undocumented transfer student at the University. He explained that University policy indicates a student must apply within 28 months of graduating high school, something he believes greatly affects undocumented students.

After spending 49 months working full-time and completing courses at a community college, Galvan was accepted as a transfer student to the University’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Though he completed a summer semester, his status as a student is unclear as his financial aid information is being reviewed. Galvan is currently attending all his classes in hopes of getting retrospective credit after he is granted financial aid and his enrollment is confirmed.

Natalia Ipince, a senior in Taubman and the School of Art & Design, is an international student from Venezuela who moved to the United States four years ago. She came to the event after realizing the different barriers undocumented students have to face.

“I realized that I was interested in the boundaries people have to cross,” Ipince said. “In this case, I ended up realizing that undocumented students have a lot of boundaries that they have to cross to g˜et the same education a lot of us do.”

Ipince also explained she sympathized with undocumented students after experiencing the legal challenges of the immigration system.

LSA junior Rosa Avilez also attended the event and spoke to The Daily about her own experience applying to the University as a “DACAmented” student.

“Originally, I really didn’t think I could apply to the University of Michigan because I really didn’t know about the opportunities it held for undocumented students,” Avilez said. “I instantly knew I wasn’t going to be able to get federal aid, I might not be able to apply for in-state tuition, so money was a really big issue.”

She said the University initially gave her a scholarship, but she wasn’t able to accept it because of her DACA status. However, she also received a similar, privately funded scholarship, allowing her to attend the University.

“That only happened after I filled out another in-state application,” she said. “As a DACA recipient, I am not a permanent resident. I am not a U.S. citizen.”

She also explained that she wished more students on campus knew about undocumented students and DACA recipients.

“All of us, we’re just really hard workers,” she said. “We really just want to go to college, and if I didn’t have the in-state tuition policy that was just implemented a few years ago, this would not be possible. I wouldn’t be here and I know a lot of us wouldn’t be here.”

Claire Hao also contributed to the reporting of this piece.