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“I don’t know how I am going to do it, but I am going to do it. I am going to make my dreams come true.”
In 2004, John Hickenlooper made a promise to students from Cole Middle School in Colorado that if they graduated from high school, he would help find resources to help them pay for college.
At the time, Cole was one of the poorest performing schools in the city and about one-third of the students were undocumented. Yet they listened to the mayor, enthused by his promise, and decided to pursue their dreams and beat the odds against them. The time has come for the mayor to fulfill his promise and his office has run into trouble: the undocumented student graduates would be required to pay out of state tuition in the state they have resided-in for most of their lives, and are therefore unable to afford higher education. This is due to a 2006 law by the Colorado legislature that stipulates instate-tuition for only those that can prove citizenship.
Karen Hernandez’s parents came to the United States nine years ago. She says she didn’t have a choice in the matter. She says she shouldn’t be penalized for it now. The high school senior has an A average and she plans to go to Metropolitan State College of Denver and study pre-med. She thought everything was taken care of. Now, she says, “I don’t know how I am going to come up with the money.”
These students are not ungrateful; they are only seeking what was promised to them when they were young. They are driven, talented and have worked hard in the pursuit of their dreams. Punishing young students for the actions of their parents does not resolve the issue of illegal immigration. To place barriers to their higher education now advances no compelling state interest.
As for now, the mayor is looking for private donors to fund higher education for students who don’t qualify for instate-tuition. In fact, the entire scholarship fun is funded by private donors, not taxpayers. A better alternative for the Colorado state would be to push for an instate-tuition bill like 10 other states have already implemented since this problem won’t be going away anytime soon. More undocumented students will beat the odds and graduate from high school only to face obstacles to their higher education. It is in the best interest of society to avoid the creation of a permanent underclass of young undocumented Americans who would otherwise make great doctors, teachers, nurses, attorneys and scientists.
You can read more on the issue here.