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Barring Undocumented Students from College

October 18, 2010 By: Julie Manhan Category: Top Stories

He was 18 months old when his parents brought him across the border in the dead of night, for what they considered a chance for a better life.  At eighteen months old, he could not persuade his parents to choose a different means to enter the United States.  His choices came later and those choices qualified him for admission to college.  It’s those choices and the motivation behind those choices, that I believe we need to look at when discussing whether or not to bar undocumented students from admission to college.


Photo by SAT Guru 

When we get on the topic of undocumented students being barred from college, sometimes I think we need to remember what it really takes to get into college.  It’s not a guarantee for anyone, let alone someone who is most likely the first one in his/her family to go to college.  It takes motivation, commitment and hard work from the moment you start school.  It requires a spirit of determination to overcome all the obstacles you will face at home, school and in your community that have the potential to lead you down a very different path.  But most importantly, whether you are undocumented or not,  getting into college takes hope;  hope that you can make it to college and once you get there learn what it takes to make a difference for yourself and others.  Hope is what you hang onto when it would be easier to give up.

Imagine what that “undocumented” boy has done to get to the point where he is admissible to a selective college.  He has taken the hardest classes possible and done his best in them.  He’s probably in the top third of his class, if not higher. He has managed to score well on his SAT/ACT and been actively involved in his school or community.  He was able to get into college because he successfully navigated the confusion of the college application process, most likely with little help from others.  How was he able to do this?  He was resourceful, responsible and diligent; traits that are valued by colleges and employers alike.

But for this undocumented student, and those who would have followed his lead, the hope that sustained him vaporizes when you bar him from college admission.  There is no longer a reason to stay motivated or do well in school.  That’s become a dead end path.  He has no choice but to look for other alternatives.  (Maybe that’s why only one state has made the move to bar undocumented students from their most selective colleges.)

In my opinion, an undocumented student who is qualified for college admission should never be turned away.  I know - now the argument comes that undocumented students take away financial resources that rightly belong to U.S. citizens.   The truth is that without a social security number, these students can’t get one penny of state or federal aid. The financial resources for undocumented students are very sparse.  The only “free” money available to them is a limited number of competitive private scholarships. In fact, some argue barring undocumented students from college could actually cost tax payers money.

Ultimately, an undocumented student doesn’t take a seat away from anyone; he’s earned that seat through hard work and commitment.  He doesn’t take anyone’s financial aid either. What he does do is bring more hope to the people around him.  He has a ripple effect.  He inspires motivation and success.  In short, he raises people up and improves our society as a whole.  Barring him from college admission will have a ripple effect as well, but it won’t be nearly as positive.

We need more kids like this one who has not given up, who is not afraid of the hard work it takes to achieve his dream, who has his eyes set on a better future.   The future of our country depends on students like this - regardless of which side of the border they were born on or the choices their parents made on their behalf.  (Perhaps that is why so many people support the bi-partisan DREAM Act which would provide clear paths to citizenship or higher education for undocumented students who were brought here as children.)  As a nation built on the dreams of immigrants, we should do everything we can to preserve their hope, not take it away.

What do you think about this issue? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.