New fund at UMN hopes to support at-risk immigrant students

Small grants will be made available to help qualifying students.

JaNaé Bates of ISAIHA documents the march against the repeal of DACA with her phone on Sept. 5, 2017.

Carter Blochwitz, Daily File Photo

JaNaé Bates of ISAIHA documents the march against the repeal of DACA with her phone on Sept. 5, 2017.

by Max Chao

Amid a national immigration debate, a new scholarship hopes to support students at the University of Minnesota who may be affected by proposed legislation. 

On Friday, the University of Minnesota’s Immigration Response Team launched the Dream Fund, which aims to support student immigrants whose legal status may be at risk, affecting their ability to earn money for college expenses.

The donation-based fund is housed in the University of Minnesota Foundation and provides small grants to qualifying students, including recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status, said Marissa Hill-Dongre, director of the IRT.

Recent attempts to pass immigration reform as well as an impending March 5 DACA renewal deadline have led to uncertainty for some immigrant students, said Erika Lee, director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University.

“Essentially, we don’t know what the status is for students and other [people] who have previously received DACA or are in the process of applying for DACA,” Lee said.

The Minnesota Dream Act, passed in 2013, allows all students who graduate from Minnesota high schools to pay in-state tuition regardless of immigration status.

However, many immigrant students pay for tuition by working jobs, and the loss of the right to work legally could force them to drop out mid-semester, Hill-Dongre said.

“The idea is that, perhaps, the Dream Fund would allow a student to at least get through a semester in which that happens … [and] try to figure out what their options are going forward,” she said. 

The fund is distributed by need, requiring applicants prove they have a financial need stemming from a change in immigration status. The money can be used for tuition, as well as certain necessities such as groceries. 

Other schools around the country, such as University of California-Berkeley, Western Michigan University and University of Utah have created similar funds, said Hill-Dongre. 

Several campus groups have expressed interest, she said, including the Minnesota Student Association. 

MSA plans to promote the fund in early February as part of a DACA awareness video in collaboration with other Big Ten schools, said student body president Trish Palermo in an emailed statement. 

“There is such an interest about immigration policy changes and the effects on immigrants. … I really see it with faculty, staff and students,” Hill-Dongre said.