Monica de la Cruz
May 23, 2018
The undocumented immigrant community has been hit by a stream of negative news in 2018, and the cloud of uncertainty is showing an impact on California students. A press release from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office on Feb. 18 stated that California Dream Act applications for Cal Grants were down by 20,000 from last year, citing uncertainty over immigration reform and “an environment of fear and confusion for students” as cause for the decrease in undocumented students seeking state financial aid.
In this period of heightened uncertainty, the Price Scholarship Program is reaffirming its dedication to students who are undocumented or currently receiving DACA protections. In what appears will most likely be the final year of the Price Scholarship Program, the remaining funds for 15 scholarships of $9,000 will be reserved for students who do not have the security of permanent legal citizenship.
“If they ever decide to fix the DACA and allow Dreamers to become citizens, one of the requirements will probably be pursuing a degree,” said Maria Elena Delgado program director. She stressed the value of academic performance and community service for undocumented students. Every month, students must complete 25 hours of community service or an internship with a partnering community agency or school.
Price scholars also receive wrap-around educational support services throughout the year, including individual counseling, mentoring, a supportive peer network, career skill-building workshops and monthly meetings with the program director to support their progress.
Since the Price Scholarship Program was created in 1998, it has never required students to have citizenship or a Social Security number in order to apply for funds. “At the time, no one else was giving scholarships to undocumented students. They didn’t qualify anywhere,” said Delgado. The program is privately funded by Price Philanthropies, and its governing board has more freedom from government regulation in deciding how funds will be spent. she said.
As immigration policy changed over the years, Price program staff gained expertise in supporting the unique needs of undocumented students. Community service coordinator and Price Scholar alumni Clemente Ayala has worked with undocumented Price scholars for 12 years, and his experience serves as a resource for student success.
When the California Dream Act and California Promise Grant went into effect in 2013, Ayala saw a surge of undocumented students entering college for the first time. “That was a huge change for undocumented students, and luckily I was here to see that. I was helping a lot of them, even students that were not part of the program,” Ayala said. “They were bringing their friends, bringing their family members to me to fill out the waivers like crazy, cause they couldn’t believe it.” He said that seeing the opportunities that have opened for students makes all of his work worthwhile. Smiling, he concluded, “It’s the best job in the world.”
Marco Luna Garcia, a DACA recipient and current Price scholar, spoke to the value of the personal service of the program. “You know you have people here helping you, you know you’re not alone. I know, like all these laws are changing and it’s crazy, but there’s always people here that will help you and keep motivating you… It’s like a big family,” Garcia said.
After 20 years, the Price Scholarship Program is ending because of insufficient funding. Dedicating these final program spots to undocumented students could be a parting gift to a very vulnerable group of students. “I’ve seen the struggles that these kids have to go through, the barriers they have to deal with… When you’re talking about undocumented students, there’s no denial that they need financial support the most,” Ayala said. The deadline for scholarship applications was April 2.