Leaders support financial aid for undocumented students

Students and community members march on campus in support of proposed legislation that would provide access to financial aid to undocumented students

Students and community members march in support of proposed legislation that would provide access to financial aid to undocumented students. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

 

UIC students, employees and Chicago community members marched through campus last week to walk in the shoes of undocumented students for an afternoon.

Participants in the student-led walk chanted “A-C-C-E-S-S- access, access for student success,” to support the Student Access to College and Career Education for Statewide Success (ACCESS) Bill.

The proposed bill would make undocumented students eligible to receive tuition waivers and state-funded scholarships at four-year, public colleges and universities on a competitive basis. Supporters hope to pass the proposed legislation in spring 2016.

The walk followed a press conference in Student Center East where UIC students and local leaders spoke in support of the bill.

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“Our undocumented students are huge assets to our state,” UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis says at a press conference to launch the Student ACCESS bill. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

Dulbadrakh Natsagdorj, a part-time student, told of his struggle to pay for college. “I’ve been paying for my tuition by myself for the past few years, working over 40 hours a week. I wake up at 8 a.m. to go to class, and I get home at 12 a.m.”

Natsagdorj said paying for school still “seems impossible.”

“This is my first semester at UIC, and I need to pay $10,000 for tuition without any financial aid or scholarships.”

Student Nasseef Quasim said that of the 65,000 undocumented students who graduate from high school across the nation every year, five to 10 percent go to college and only 1 percent graduate with a four-year degree.

“Our collective presence in this room signifies this as a human struggle,” he said.

In their remarks at the press conference, UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis, University President Timothy Killeen, Sen. Iris Martínez, Rep. Lisa Hernández and Illinois Business Immigration co-chair John Rowe talked about the need for Student ACCESS.

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Marchers chanted “A-C-C-E-S-S- access, access for student success.” Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

“If Illinois is going to strengthen its economic standing and its competitiveness, it must leverage every aspect, and, make no mistake, our undocumented students are huge assets to our state, for our economy and for our future,” Amiridis said.

“When we come across disparities in the opportunities and flexibilities that we’re able to provide for our students, this is when we need to take action.”

“The true valors of this bill are these students, right here at UIC who have been advocating, showing courage, and really organizing this,” Hernández said.

“I’m really proud of our university’s role in crafting this important legislation,” Killeen said. “I’m proud that all of you are standing here, lending your voices to this pivotal cause that will pay dividends for generations to come.”

“Without the opportunities to compete for financial aid, our undocumented students struggle to pay for tuition every single semester,” said Martínez, who attended UIC. “As a state, we have to do better.”