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  1. #1
    Administrator Jean's Avatar
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    Immigrant students in Va. seeking in-state college tuition

    By Justin Jouvenal, Tuesday, December 17, 6:31 AM
    The Washington Post

    Giancarla Rojas is not an American citizen, but she has an American dream. The Falls Church resident has worked doggedly to become the first in her family to attend a four-year college, since her parents brought her here illegally from Bolivia as a child.

    She won a reprieve to stay in this country under an Obama administration initiative, maintains a 3.8 GPA at a community college and has a résumé packed with volunteer work, but George Mason University is still out of reach.

    The 19-year-old cannot afford the $29,000 a year out-of-state tuition Virginia charges for enrollees with her immigration status, so she and six other students filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Arlington County Circuit Court arguing that they should pay the same lower rates as other long-time Virginia residents.

    The lawsuit marks the latest flashpoint in a heated national debate over whether to grant the benefit to children brought here illegally. Maryland became one of at least 17 states to do so last year, after vigorous opposition forced a referendum on a plan to grant in-state tuition discounts to undocumented college students. The issue is also the subject of litigation in Georgia and Arizona.

    The Virginia lawsuit against the State Council of Higher Education (SCHEV), which sets policy for public colleges, could determine whether hundreds — or even thousands — of students like Rojas attend college in Virginia or, if they do, how much debt they incur and how long it takes them to finish.

    “I always believed if you worked hard and got good grades, you could go to college,” Rojas said. “We are just like anyone else. We have been living in the United States for a long time.”

    Specifically, the suit seeks in-state tuition at public colleges for recipients of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was created in the wake of the failure of the DREAM Act in Congress.

    DACA allows those who were brought here illegally as children to avoid deportation if they are enrolled in school, have a clean record and meet other criteria. They can also get Social Security numbers, apply for driver’s licenses in some states and have the right to work. It does not provide a path to citizenship and must be renewed every two years.

    More than 7,000 young people had been granted DACA status in Virginia through the end of August, according to the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of the students by the Virginia-based Legal Aid Justice Center. The plaintiffs argue that DACA is equivalent to other immigration statuses that qualify for in-state tuition in Virginia.

    SCHEV officials said their attorneys have told them otherwise, and school officials have written to students saying the state legislature would have to approve such a plan.

    “DACA is not a legal status,” said Lee Andes, assistant director for financial aid for SCHEV. “All it does is defer action.”

    Bills that would have granted DACA students in-state tuition failed in the Virginia legislature this year, but similar measures are expected to be proposed during the next session.

    A legislative analyst did not predict the financial impact on schools, saying the number of undocumented students enrolled in Virginia colleges was unknown. However, the analyst said schools might offset any potential financial losses by enrolling more out-of-state students.

    Proponents argue that helping this group of young people attend college is the pragmatic course. Many have no plans to leave the United States and consider this country their home.

    “By getting educations, they are much more likely to get integrated in the state, make money, pay taxes and buy houses,” said Jennifer Riddle, an advocacy attorney for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. “Do we want to integrate them or create a second class?”

    Opponents argue that educational resources — especially in difficult financial times — should be devoted to citizens.

    “It’s absurd that illegal aliens could go into court and force a state agency to recognize them as legal residents,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch. “It undermines the rule of law and provides a subsidy for students who are here illegally. Most taxpayers object to that.”

    Rojas’s story is typical of many DACA recipients. Her parents brought her to the United States as a 13-year-old. Rojas said she and her 7-year-old sister were stopped at the border and detained, but were eventually released and joined their parents in Northern Virginia.

    Deportation proceedings began against them immediately, but her parents enrolled her in Falls Church High School. Rojas, who spoke only Spanish, said simple homework assignments would take her hours and she would stay up nights studying, but she was determined. She and her father would sing Beatles and Chicago songs in the car to practice English.

    By 11th grade, she was taking English honors classes. She tutored other immigrants in the language and helped them prepare for the citizenship test at the Arlington Boulevard Community Development Organization (ABCD).

    In 12th grade, she approached a school counselor to discuss college options. She had carefully kept the secret that she was illegal from everyone, until that point.

    “He told me, ‘There’s nothing you can do. Students like you don’t go to college,’ ” Rojas recalled.

    She said the encounter spurred her to action. She began networking with other undocumented students in college. She got her DACA status, which staved off deportation proceedings.

    She applied for 30 scholarships to get money to attend Northern Virginia Community College, since federal loans are not available to undocumented students. Still, she pays $322 per credit hour, more than double the in-state rate.

    Despite the hard work, Rojas’s grip on her dream remains tenuous. Robbie Snow, the community coordinator at ABCD, said it would be a shame if she did not attend George Mason.

    “You don’t want someone like her flipping burgers in McDonald’s,” Snow said. “You want her working for the betterment of the state.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/...e34_print.html
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  2. #2
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    Children of Illegal Immigrants in Virginia Sue for In-State Student Tuition

    Cortney O'Brien | Dec 18, 2013
    townhall.com



    “Giancarla Rojas is not an American citizen, but she has an American dream,” the Washington Post soliloquizes, before trying to persuade readers that young adults in the US who were brought here illegally deserve to pay the same college tuition as longtime US citizens.

    Rojas is an undocumented student and resident of Falls Church, VA trying to get into George Mason University, yet finding herself stymied by the school’s price tag.

    The 19-year-old cannot afford the out-of-state tuition of $29,000 a year Virginia charges people with her immigration status, so she and six other students filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Arlington County Circuit Court arguing that they should be able to pay the same lower rates as other longtime Virginia residents.

    If Rojas and the six other students succeed against the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), their tuition will be slashed by a third to just $9,900.

    Virginia is just the latest state to consider granting the benefit to children brought to the US illegally. Maryland was one of 17 states to approve the grant last year. After the DREAM Act failed to pass in Congress, President Obama introduced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows children who were brought here illegally to avoid deportation if they are attending school and have a clean record. In Virginia, nearly 7,000 students have been granted DACA status. The lawsuit brought forward by the seven undocumented students in Virginia seeks in-state tuition rates at public schools for those eligible for DACA.

    I get it, Rojas and her fellow plaintiffs can’t afford college. But neither can a lot of students. What about all of the legal American citizens who have an American dream? Offering Rojas a lower tuition rate while other out-of-state, yet documented citizens of the US, face higher rates doesn’t seem all that fair.

    Yet, the WaPo is trying to earn empathy points.

    Despite the hard work, Rojas’s grip on her dream remains tenuous. Robbie Snow, the community coordinator at ABCD, said it would be a shame if Rojas did not attend George Mason.

    “You don’t want someone like her flipping burgers in McDonald’s,” Snow said. “You want her working for the betterment of the state.”

    The same goes for documented US students, who have admirable back stories and ambitious goals of their own.

    http://townhall.com/tipsheet/cortney...ition-n1765131
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  3. #3
    working4change
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    Second article added to the Home page
    http://www.alipac.us/content.php?r=2...tudent-Tuition

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