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EDITORIAL: US needs more progress for undocumented students’ education

While undocumented students make up 2 percent of the country’s college students, as a recent NBC News article reported, the U.S. is far behind in providing an equal opportunity for higher education to these students.

A newly released national survey by UCLA’s Institute for Immigration, Globalization and Education and the UndocuScholars Project sheds light on the wide array of issues undocumented students face, from a strenuous educational environment to inconsistent state and university guidelines, as reported by NBC News.

The first national survey to explore this problem, it covered more than 900 college students throughout the U.S. from 55 different countries.

Since many of these students deal with financial disparity and fear family members being deported, as the article addressed, states and colleges need to make more of an effort to ensure these students have the opportunity to further their education and should provide resources particularly for them.

Now, 19 states allow undocumented students to attend school at in-state rather than out-of-state tuition rates, according to the NBC News article. Last year, Florida joined this list, as it now allows those students who went to a secondary school for three years prior to college to pay in-state tuition as long as they apply to school within two years after graduation.

Even this law, which allows students to pay about a third of what they might have to, has its limitations. For instance, not all undocumented students in the state can benefit, since the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that qualify- ing non-resident students can’t amount to more than 10 percent of the students in the entire State University System population.

This restriction is especially hard-hitting because Florida had about 950,000 undocumented immigrants in 2012 and the third highest undocumented immigrant population in the U.S. next to California and Texas, according to the Pew Research Center.

As for financial aid, resources are slim. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, undocumented students cannot receive federal financial aid, and only five states offer them state financial aid.

Given that 61 percent of the students surveyed are from families with incomes below $30,000 a year, and 56 percent felt “extremely concerned” about paying for school, results the Chronicle of Higher Education reported, students who have lived in a particular state for most of their lives should have the same opportu- nity to attend school as their classmates without being denied help.

More states, including Florida, need to at least make state finan- cial aid an available option for students who have lived in a state for years.

It’s easy to see why the recent survey advocates for legislators and schools to offer better services, especially since 90 percent of deferred-action students worry about their friends and family being deported and many of the students surveyed reported feeling “isolated” during college, according to the Chronicle and NBC News articles. Campuses could intervene by providing support services to help these students at least feel less alone.

There is no reason why a student who was able to attend K-12 education should have a more difficult time paying for college, and without better provisions, it will be impossible to truly offer an equal chance for undocumented students in the U.S.