For years CT Students for a Dream and other groups have been pushing for a bill allowing undocumented immigrants to be eligible to receive institutional financial aid to attend Connecticut public universities like the University of Connecticut. The rationale behind this is that undocumented immigrants pay into the same pool of money that citizens pay into when financial aid is considered, but receive none of the benefits. While the bill has come up short in past years, it is now making its way to the Connecticut State House floor for a vote.
The current version outlines several requirements these prospective students must meet before being eligible for aid, including being free of felony convictions and having filed an affidavit stating that they have applied to legalize their immigration or will file as soon as eligible. The Office of Fiscal Analysis offered a report on the bill claiming that the financial impact on the state would be “favorable” and that there will be no fiscal impact on higher education, as its main effect is simply a redistribution of aid among student applicants.
There are many reasons why fighting to pass this bill, whether by reaching out to one’s representatives or speaking out in other ways, is in the best interest of the UConn community. First and foremost, it is a way to better the lives of the undocumented students who attend this university, as well as those around the state. They do not have access to federal and state funds, and even with access to those, college can be tough to pay for. They absolutely deserve access to something they have to pay into already. Otherwise it’s just one more hardship for a group that is already at a disadvantage.
While the tangible benefits are obviously important, the importance of supporting these members of our community as opposed to shunning or shaming them is paramount. These are people every bit as determined to secure a quality education and make valuable contributions to society as those of us who were born in the United States. We should welcome them, because the geographical circumstances of one’s birth should not be the deciding factor in the opportunities available to them. This bill is one small step towards making that dream a reality.