ROANOKE, Va. – Allowing undocumented residents to pay in-state tuition was a big step, but two new bills could bridge the funding gap to get closer to that cap and gown.
Francesco Yepez says it’s about time. As a former George Mason University college student, offering state financial aid to undocumented students is an opportunity he wishes he had.
“They won’t have to have as many obstacles as I did,” Yepez said.
Unauthorized immigrant families in Virginia pay more than $250 million in taxes, according to a report. Therefore, Dream Project Executive Director Lizzette Arias said, they are entitled to state aid.
“We’ve already invested so much money in these students, it doesn’t make sense to cut their wings right when they are about to fly,” she said.
Roanoke College for years was offering funds to undocumented residents as a private school, but this bill would make them eligible for the VA Tuition Assistance Grant worth nearly $4,000
“$4,000 is not a huge amount of money but it’s 4,000 times four years that gets to be a big chunk,” Roanoke College Vice President for Enrollment Brenda Poggendorf said.
Though the suggested legislation could encourage more undocumented residents to enroll in college, it is unlikely that the rise in students would mean less state funding is available.
“For many of us we have room to grow so this would not bump somebody out,” Poggendorf said.
Besides, only two percent of the nation’s college student population are undocumented, according to a 2020 report.
Arias said if they get a degree, they are able to pour more money back into the economy.
“Because they are earning more they are giving back in taxes more,” she said.
If approved, the legislation would go into effect in the Fall of 2022.