The University of Virginia has announced that in-state students with DACA status — so-called “Dreamers” — will be eligible for financial aid. University spokesman Wes Hester said the money will come from private funding.
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) welcomed the action. “I’m proud of this decision by the University of Virginia and Jim Ryan to make their financial aid available to those in the DACA program. Opening our doors to more students enhances the diversity that we know makes our Commonwealth stronger,” Northam said in a Daily Progress report.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was created by President Obama in 2012. UVA has admitted undocumented in-state students who were brought to the U.S. as children since 2014. But those students have been required to pay the full cost of tuition out of pocket since undocumented students are not eligible for federal loans or Pell grants.
In 2014, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said that public universities in Virginia could legally extend in-state tuition rates to DACA students, though he did not offer an opinion on whether universities could or should extend financial aid to those students.
The decision came as a welcome surprise to Nicole Leal, a fourth-year student and incoming president of DREAMERS on Grounds. “We were just very surprised,” said Leal. She said the group has been trying to meet with administrators to organize more programs for DACA students.
DACA offers temporary legal status to roughly 669,000 people in America. Several other states provide financial aid to DACA students while some others prohibit universities from providing any financial assistance.