Connecticut Dreamers Demand Access to State Financial Aid
Six Connecticut Dreamers walked out of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office Tuesday disappointed that he refused to immediately agree that undocumented students should have access to financial aid.
“He said he wants concrete information and case studies about what other states have been doing and we feel we have provided this information to him previously,” Lucas Codognolla, lead coordinator for CT Students for A Dream, said. “We will send his office this information again, but we will hold his office accountable for taking action on this issue.”
Codognolla is just one of the more than 1,000 Connecticut Dreamers. Dreamers are students who are the children of undocumented immigrants and who came to this country as children and attend the state’s public schools, but through no fault of their own are in the country illegally.
In 2011, they were given the opportunity to pay in-state tuition rates at the state’s public colleges and universities, but what they want now is access to institutional financial aid. In 2013, legislation that would have granted them access to this aid failed to get raised for a public hearing.
The pot of money the Dreamers are after comes from the 15 percent portion of tuition revenue that’s redistributed back to the student body through “need based” scholarships. Dreamers who attend colleges in Connecticut pay more than $8,500 annually and some of that money goes into that fund they are never able to access.
The Dreamers, who feel it’s an issue of fairness, have refused to give up on the issue. They began attending Malloy’s town hall events around the state to ask him to support their cause.
Junior Sierra, of Norwalk, confronted the governor at his first town hall in February.
Sierra, who was brought to the United States from Honduras when he was 6 years old, said he won a $20,000 scholarship to Quinnipiac University for coming in first place in a science fair. He later learned he would be unable to accept it because of his undocumented status.
“I’m still trying to keep my options open,” Sierra, 18, said.
He said he has had some interest from Fairfield University, but at the moment he is busy balancing school and a job. He said his challenge at the moment is finding enough money to take the SATs.
Andrew Doba, Malloy’s spokesman, said Malloy was one of the first governors to sign a state Dream Act and has made improving educational opportunities one of his top priorities.
“We’re happy to listen and we’re happy to get some documents from them on a path forward,” Doba said.
Codognolla said the governor kept reminding them that he signed the Dream Act back in 2011.
“But we all know it was because of our advocacy that it got passed,” he told a small group of Dreamers outside the state Capitol on Tuesday.
The Dreamers said they would have the documents to the administration by the end of the week.
There’s a difference of opinion about whether the governor can do this on his own or if he needs legislative action.
According to the National Conference of State Legislators, California, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington currently allow undocumented students to receive state financial aid. There are another 18 states that offer undocumented students in-state tuition rates.