Eye on Education

Undocumented Students in Gray Area for College Admissions

Ida Lieszkovszky / StateImpact Ohio

Chaza Banda is saving up her paychecks from Dave's supermarket so she can pay for college, a dream that is complicated by her status as a deferred action immigrant.

It’s been nearly a year since the Obama administration gave leniency for some children who immigrated to the United States illegally.

Known as DACA – deferred action for childhood arrivals – the measure gives these young people some protection even though they aren’t citizens or legal residents. Nearly 2 million people are eligible for the DACA program.

This is the first year DACA students are applying for colleges, but their uncertain legal status can be a problem.

18-year-old Chaza Banda works as a cashier at a Dave’s Supermarket on the east side of Cleveland. She’s saving up her paychecks to pay for college.

But college may not happen for her.

Banda immigrated to the US 8 years ago from Zambia to join her father in the United States. She’s an outstanding student – top ten in her class. Her high school did not have a soccer team, so she started one. She took a plethora of AP courses to get ready for college.

Banda is a DACA student. She can now get a social security number and legally work and study in the United States. But she’s not on a path to citizenship. and many universities consider her an international student even though she’s lived in Cleveland for almost a decade.

“Because of all the immigration issues and the international issues I would be satisfied with any place that’s decent,” Banda says. “I just want an education, that’s it. I don’t care where it’s from, I just want an education.”

For example, Miami University admitted her, but would charge her more than $40,000 a year – double what in-state students have to pay.

Federal student aid and work programs are out of the question – DACA students are ineligible. Same goes for a lot of scholarships.

“I applied for a lot of different scholarships, but a lot of them I couldn’t do because I’m not a citizen,” Banda says.  ”A lot of scholarships the requirements were you had to be a citizen or a permanent resident.”

Banda has had to adjust her expectations. She’s looking at going to a more affordable school, like Cuyahoga Community College

“Even if I have to do Tri-C for two years, that’s fine with me and then I can transfer to Cleveland State (University) as long as I get a four year degree so I can get my masters and a PHD because I really, really want a PhD one day,” she says. :So, it doesn’t matter where I go.”

A dozen states allow undocumented immigrants to qualifiy for in-state tuition. They have to have lived in the state for much of their lives and graduated from a high school in that state.

State senator Charleta Tavares co-sponsored an Ohio version of the DREAM act last session, but it didn’t go anywhere. She hopes to reintroduce the Tuition Equity Act – in the near future. It would allow undocumented immigrants pursuing citizenship to qualify for in-state tuition.

In the meantime, Ohio colleges are left to figure out how to handle students like Banda on their own.

Miami University spokeswoman Claire Wagner says they’ve gotten no guidance from the state.

“That I think is where we are left,” she says. “Somewhat unclear with the deferred action students.”

Wagner says they’ve been using a chart written by the Board of Regents that details how to handle various immigrant students. That chart is seven years old and out of date.

So Miami, like many other colleges, considers DACA student’s international.

“I think unfortunately a lot of schools are passing the buck,” says Lauren Burke, an immigration rights lawyer with AtlasDIY. “They’re sort of not wanting to deal with the issue and so they’re sort of saying we can’t admit you without thinking about what is both the case in legal circumstances but also what’s the case of a majority of students.”

Burke gets a lot of questions from DACA students hoping to attend college. Many of them, she says, are flat out rejected.

It is legal to admit DACA students.

But while states and universities struggle with the legal complexities, students like Banda are left watching their friends go off to college while their own future remains unclear.

“I just want to be at a university this fall, or a college, or a community college,” Banda says. “I just want to be learning something.”

Banda has gotten some help. The Cleveland Plain Dealer profiled her as an outstanding student in their annual Senior Standouts series. That led some Miami Alums to offer assistance.

But not every DACA student gets a write-up in the newspaper.


  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ratt-Johnston/100000680481349 Ratt Johnston

    They are not Undocumented Students. They are Illegal Immigrants and should be deported with the rest of their family. How you can justify giving tuition, welfare and jobs to illegals when 75 Million legal Americans are out of work is beyond comprehension.

    • anazunigamaus

      I am a legal Hispanic immigrant and I second what you said, they are not undocumented students, they are illegal aliens and they are not the responsibility of American taxpayers at all, they are the responsibility of the country where they were born and their irresponsible parents, that brought them here illegally.

      • Just Me

        I have to disagree. These students are contributing more to our society that many born Americans. Most of these students are paying for their educations on their own, since they are not eligible for aid. This article doesn’t read that we are paying for them, but why not allow them an education.

        • anazunigamaus

          You are wrong, under the new defacto amnesty, given to them by Obama, they are getting financial aid and I sure don’t see how they are contributing to America at all, when they are draining our resources and complaining in Univision, the Hispanic TV station, because they can not participate in Obamacare directly, but they were told by the experts on milking the system, in the TV station, to go to community clinics, finance by Obamacare, and they can get the medical there, because according to those experts, they don’t ask for legal status anyway. So that means, that the dreamers as well as the illegals, can get Obamacare, through community clinics in their areas.
          Why not allow them an education ? you tell us, well, because we are broke and they are not citizens of America, they are citizens of what ever country they were born at and the responsibility of that country. That country is the one that should pay for their education, not us.As to them contributing more to our society that many born Americans, in what way i may ask? All I can heard in the Hispanic media is them now taking jobs openly from unemployed Americans and they get a big celebration in TV, because some have been employed in Los Angeles City Hall, another one of the jobs Americans wont do, what a laugh, this president is making a mockery of our laws and we are becoming a lawless country like Mexico, because to Obama the laws sure don’t worth much and he is just cleaning his behind with them.

          • stop and grow up

            Wow, how close-minded can you be? First of all, not all DACA students are from Mexico, so please stop racially profiling them as if they are. Second, the undocumented students came here as children. They had no say in the matter, and to many, their home country is as foreign to them as it is to you. How can you even call yourself a decent human being when you’re denying a child an education and a future? For whatever reason in the past, they could not achieve citizenship in this country, but people like you are the reason why they cannot achieve citizenship now.

          • anazunigamaus

            I went back to read what I wrote and I can find any thing where I say that all the students come from Mexico, I really cant see how you tell me I am racially profiling, because I am a legal Hispanic immigrant, I was not born in this country, but if I stand in real lines, to respect the laws and come legally, those who did not, by their own actions or the actions of their irresponsible parents, who brought them here illegally, do not deserve the American dream.
            You think I am not a decent human, because I don’t agree with you and I am denying a child and education. First, they are not children, they are young adults and the responsibility of the country where they were born, not the tax payers of America.
            The abuse of our laws and the good hearts of American citizens, need to stop, our country is broke and we can afford to continue taking care of people that should not be here, in the first place. A line need to be drawn and the abuse stop, I don’t really care what you or anyone else thing of me, I love America and I will keep fighting for what is right, and to bring the country back to the rule of law.

          • lahfaja fa

            All I can do is laugh at your answers. You were not born here but this is your country! They were not born here and this is their country too. And they are contributing more than you think, oh and if they get better jobs than a citizen is because they are more qualify. If you don’t want illegal immigrants “taking your jobs” than be better qualify for them, prepare you self more!!

          • anazunigamaus

            First, I don’t need a job, I am retired and live out of my investments. Second lahfaja fa, I waited on real lines to come LEGALLY, this people or they parents sneak into the country ILLEGALLY and they don’t deserve a pat on the back for doing so.
            And YES, this is my country now, weather any of you open border advocates like it or not. When I become and American I did so all the way. with loyalty to the country that gave me that opportunity. The problem with many of the new citizens now, is that they are becoming citizens for the power of the vote, to push their ill agendas on the rest of us, not out of loyalty to the country. Living between two cultures, I see it all the time and I think is wrong for America and for the Americans.
            No forgetting that I live between the two cultures, you can not tell me they are contributing to the country, because the fact is that they are taking from tax payers, far more than they contribute or their parents contribute, if any and that is a big IF.
            So you think it is OK to take jobs from unemployed American with forgery papers or making some life upside down, by stealing their identity? I don’t, because before I retire, my identity was stolen by one of them and my life turn outside down to try to prove who I was. So don’t give me that BS, that they are more prepare to take the jobs, they get them, because big business love cheap labor and they over look the fact, that they have forgery papers, NOTHING ELSE SIR.

          • Your a Damn Immigrant!

            Wow, You truly have such a close-minded sense of thinking! “Legal Hispanic Immigrant”, you just happen to be one of the fortunate to have been able to obtain citizenship; but prior to that, all you were an “illegal alien”. You, yourself, an immigrant– how unfortunate to see someone so disconnected to reality. Everyone has their own story, but one thing is most definably clear; and that is that the immigrants, just like you, have put forth an effort to be true Americans — American’s granted and righteous by birth, but one thing to keep clear is that immigrants actually desire to be apart of something ignoramus people like you prevent them to. Just remember your not that different than ALL the immigrants — your yourself are an IMMIGRANT!

          • anazunigamaus

            Yes I am an immigrant, a legal immigrant and a citizen now. Regardless of what you think, I was never illegal in America, there for I was never an illegal alien at all. I came in respecting American laws from the beginning, because I was raised to respect people and their laws.
            I don’t really care what you or anyone else think of me, I am who I am and I am, and i am not going to change, because illegals don’t like that I am a Hispanic and don’t agree with them. To bad, no matter what you call me, my resolve is to do everything in my power to stop this amnesty, whether you like it or not.

  • Mars

    Dear Anazunigamaus,
    It’s a shame no one has told you the truth. Let me share with you some facts people have forgotten due to their anger and hatred toward these families and kids. DACA students do not get financial aid. They mainly rely on private scholarships given to them by private organizations that believe they can bring great success to our country. They are not on welfare, rather they find jobs, sometimes two at a time to support their families. The students most likely to get through school are those with competitive GPA’s that are offered scholarships or full rides. Are they taking the opportunities away from others? No. Why? Because they were the ones that applied to the scholarships available, worked hard to get themselves through school and get the grades. Do you not want a doctor who was top of their class, most successful, and most likely to cure whatever it is you may have to treat you? or would you go to the one who did enough, is a fine doctor, and is american but may not have the skills or the determination to cure your disease. I’m not saying that all “Americans” are like this, because I’ve met many smart and talented people. Can you not see sir, that it’s simply a title.

    Isn’t someone considered an American when they love their country, want to do good for it and the people living in it, and fight for people’s freedom. A five year old growing up in America sees the opportunities available when their mom and dad say they can be anything they want. A five year old will grow to love their country and will want to one day go into a field that they will love. but you say that that five year old child that grew up here that was brought by their parents won’t love this country? A country that they love and are glad that their families brought them here because they meant good by it? Don’t tell me they all came here illegally. They didn’t. That five year old could be the answer to a future of cancer free patients. but you want to look the person, who may have come here as a baby and know nothing about the country they were born in, to leave? go back where they came from? This is all they have ever known, this is the only place they will ever call home.

    It seems like your bitterness comes from what you went through to get here legally. I’m sorry if you were shown prejudice or had a hard time. I applaud you for making something of yourself. These students are no different than you. They have the same dreams and hopes as you did. Do you really think that if they could have voiced an opinion on whether or not to come here that their mom and dads would have listened? kids view their parents as hero’s.
    I’m not asking you to change your views, sir. I’m asking you to research the truth. The media wants to change their views and they do this by showing the half truth or manipulating and twisting words. You will never believe what you find and it will make you question everything you believed. Take it from someone who knows. ;)

    • anazunigamaus

      Today in the San Diego paper, Janet Napolitano, who head the California Universities now, have pledge 5 million aid to illegal students. This wont be taken out of tuition from other students, but out of tax payers of America.
      You are here illegally in the first place, and you are the sole responsibility of the country where you were born, not America. I listen to the Hispanic media and they are very fast to tell illegals and illegal students, how to go around the laws and get the help they need, from taxpayers, so don’t come and give me all that BS, because I know better and if any of you want to do well in school to get help, weather private or other wise, that belongs to and American and not a foreigner. You don’t have a right to compete for resources in a country you are in illegally and against legal residents and citizens.
      If you think you are all so talented, use that talent to fix the country you belong to and make it a better place to live, so you and other don’t have to leave and come illegally to America. If you are smart, you are badly needed in your own country, end of story.
      You try to tell us that you all love America and I don’t buy it, I can heard all of you laud and clear and I can tell that neither one of you have any loyalty to America or the Americans. Remember, I am fluent in the Spanish language and I understand you very well. Some Americans are naive and may buy the claim that you love America, I don’t, because I can see your actions and understand your language.

      • Martin Luther King Jr.

        1. My parents pay taxes.
        2. I came here legally with a visa.
        3. We have been struggling for 13 years to become citizens. Just because you were granted the opportunity to become a citizen doesn’t mean you are above the rest. You were not born in the United States nor were the rest of us. This country is my country as much as it is yours. I live as an American, I just don’t have the same opportunities as one with a citizenship. No, people do not come here to drain jobs they come here in search of a better life. Take a history course sometime, you might learn what America really is. Or i could just tell you… It’s a melting pot. Look it up.

        • Ana C. Maus

          If you came in legally you don’t have to worry about anything, because the fight is against those in the country illegally and breaking our laws. Now many have come legally in a tourist visa and stay illegally, are you one of those? because if you are, you are as illegal as the rest of them.
          I don’t consider myself above any one, just honest to do the right thing, respecting the country and its laws, because that is the way it should be. Every country have his own laws and if we go there, we are expected to follow those laws and if we don’t, they are consequences to pay, like in the case here. I was educated here, so I know the history of America well and yes we are a melting pot, but of people that respected the laws and came legally and those are all welcome here.

          • Jose

            Everybody in this country came over here illegally; you should know this because you know your history. The only Natives here are The Native American this whole country is based off the destruction of a whole beautiful culture. So dont sit there and pretend these so called laws are the best thing, that should adamantly be followed with no room for questions. Through these “amazing” laws that should be followed “because that is the way it should be” its gave our government the right to eradicate an entire culture. It also gave our government the right to treat people of colored like dogs (and thats saying a lot). Your so called perfect laws are causing separation between you and many people. We’re all here on this planet to help each other and OVERALL to maintain the Earth because everything that you are wearing and everything that you will EVER EVER own can only be made possible through the resources the Earth provides. The way you think Deeply saddens me. There is so much more out there Ana…OPEN YOUR EYES!

      • Anonymous

        I bet you aren’t even American you may have been born here but you are still hispanic. You’re one talk. May God open the minds of ignorant people like you because people like you slow down our nation. A helpful suggestion for you would be to revise what America was built on and how it came to be. The fact that you are on this website says a lot about you my fellow “American.”

  • David Alvarado

    the problem isn’t the difficulties of getting into college. My concern is that they charge WAY.. to much. there has been many reasons and discussions as to why colleges and universities shouldn’t charge to much for education, and many arguments had been discussed, one of them for example is FAFSA. because colleges know that a US citizen will bring a FAFSA application they know that they have a guaranteed money to their institution. also the presidents and CEOs are getting paid too much. reducing their salaries would also decrease the tuition fees.

    I do understand that prestige in education also is one of the reasons why some colleges charge those ridiculous amount of money a year. but that shouldn’t be the same for every college. information is there the entire time. the passing of knowledge a long time ago was completely free. A blacksmith would choose a pupil and it will teach him the art of blacksmith the pupil then will contribute to the society by keeping the art and knowledge of the previous master. our economy system (which is a fraud system in reality) has completely screwed our life as human beings the constant promotion of greediness and the pursuit of more power instead of fairness, will end up in chaos.

    I for once decided to take a master certificate, they are cheaper, and noways more companies are taking certificates into consideration as the same level as a diploma.

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