International Scholars

by Sarah Dolder, Copy Editor

Applying to college as a legal permanent resident, or U.S. citizen is already a stressful process, however, the process only gets more arduous the more your legal status changes. When I first started applying to colleges, I assumed that under my legal status I would be considered a resident for admissions purposes, however, that was not the case. In colleges out of Texas, I am considered an international student, which complicated the applying process much more than it should have. International students are those who are not U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, or those who have been granted asylum, refugee or parole in the public interest status by the U.S. government.

The barriers to undocumented students’ education are becoming greater and more foreboding. The rising cultures of fear, prejudice and scapegoating have translated into policies that have a very real and negative impact on immigrant communities, including the undocumented students working hard to advance in America’s schools by complicating the legalization process and limiting the amount of people who are able to go through this process, therefore limiting the opportunities of these people.

Undocumented students and students in Texas going through the legalization process are to be considered domestic residents for admissions and tuition purposes. Texas Senate Bill 1528 allows for high school students who have lived in Texas three years prior to their graduation date to be considered for in-state tuition at public higher education institutions, and as of 2015, 16 states have created and passed legislation allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates.

Furthermore, students who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents have the misconception that because they are not “legal” they can’t attend public or private institutions past senior year; less than 10 percent of undocumented students continue on to college after graduating high school. This is not only because of their immigration status but because undocumented students are not eligible for federal financial aid (FAFSA). Although state financial aid such as TAFSA and school scholarships, among other resources, are available to support undocumented students, fear of legal complications often prevents immigrant students from seeking, applying for, or even being aware of how to access these resources.

Applying for college is already a distressing process for students everywhere. The process only gets more arduous for undocumented students who are misinformed and fearful of any legal repercussions of disclosing their immigration status. As I went through my college application process I realized that counselors and school officials are not aware of the limitations that undocumented students face when applying to a post-secondary institution; by not informing themselves on the requirements for international applications or the opportunities given to those who are not legal residents or U.S. citizens they are furthering the burden placed on immigrant students by not providing them with the same opportunity that “legal” students have.

Undocumented students in most universities can apply as international students, however, the financial burden of having to pay international fees, which can add up to $60,000, for tuition with no federal help often limits the number of students who are able to take advantage of this opportunity. High schools and colleges should have more resources available for students applying as international students in order to provide them with the same advantages that U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are given. Equal opportunity is deserved by everyone, including undocumented students and those going through an adjustment of status.