November 21, 2014


Largely thanks to the persistent efforts of NYU DREAM Team, NYU has decided to face the polemic of financial aid for undocumented students with a new, affirmative policy. Earlier this week, the administration announced that undocumented undergraduate students, beginning in the 2015-2016 academic year, will be eligible for financial aid.

What may seem to many as a sudden change of policy, NYU identifies as simply a continuing loyalty to a cause. “NYU has been supportive of the DREAM Act at the state and national level,” the administration stated, “we’re sympathetic to the circumstances and difficulties undocumented students face.”

The DREAM Act, otherwise known as the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, is a legislative proposal breached over ten years ago in the U.S. Senate. On the national level, DREAM proposes to grant U.S. immigrants, who have successfully graduated from U.S. high schools, conditional permanent residency.

In New York, the NY State Youth Leadership Council has adapted DREAM into an effort to permit access to state financial aid and scholarships to undocumented students.

Finally, on a more local level, DREAM at NYU is a group of students, immigrants, and allies, who strive to provide a safe space for undocumented students at our school and hopes to “enhance higher education opportunities for undocumented students.”

The premise of NYU’s announcement is a hopeful one and yet, jaded by the customary administrative jargon of most well-established schools, doubt and uncertainty understandably dims the enthusiasm of many NYU students and staff.

On the one hand, this shift of stance is a wonderful start to an initiative to promote equal educational opportunities to undocumented and documented students alike. NYU says that this new process will, “offer institutional scholarship aid to eligible undocumented students from New York on par with what is offered to U.S. Students.”

However, there are two conditions which are important to point out as secondary implications of this announcement. Firstly, this extension of aid only applies to undocumented students who are also New York State residents. Upon application, those who have resided in New York for three years or more must prove their NY State residency and give evidence of high school attendance.

Secondly, the new policy does not grant undocumented students equal financial aid opportunity as other students. While the announcement states, “eligible undocumented students will be given the same consideration for scholarship as other U.S. students,” it amends with, “they will not have the same federal and state financial aid opportunities as U.S. students.”

As the school cannot sway state and national regulations on student aid, these restrictions are not unexpected. Even so, they are conditionals which greatly reduce the pool of undocumented students who will benefit from this new policy.

One can hope, however, that this announcement only marks the start of a necessary, albeit gradual, evolution in NYU policies on student financial aid. For undocumented students and documented students alike, there is still a long way to go until our financial needs are matched by the financial aid and support of our school.