UNLV is going to offer a new scholarship opportunity for qualifying undocumented students in the coming school year.
TheDream.us is teaming up with UNLV to provide up to $33.000 in aid toward a bachelor’s degree for students who either are enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program or have Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Due to the DACA program not currently taking new applicants, students may also apply if they came to the U.S. before Nov. 1, 2016, before the age of 16, and otherwise meet DACA eligibility requirements.
Eligible students must also either be first-time college students, community college graduates, or have earned less than 21 credits at a four-year university before the fall semester of 2022. If a student is enrolling as a high school graduate, they must have graduated with at least a cumulative gpa of 2.5 or higher. College students must have maintained at least a 3.0 gpa throughout their college career, whether they achieved a bachelor’s degree or not.
The university and the program expect to award 10 of the scholarships to qualifying students for the upcoming year, according to a news release from UNLV.
“The whole process for the application is very easy,” said Nayelli Rico Lopez, UNLV’s resource coordinator for the Undocumented Student Program, “All the information that they asked for is kept confidential, so it’s a very safe source. I’ve had students who were like ‘Is this even a real scholarship? Like it seems too good to be true,’ and I’m like ‘No yeah, it’s for sure real.’”
Rico Lopez knows personally the potential help that this scholarship can be. Rico Lopez and her family came to the U.S. when she was around the age of three. When she attended college at Nevada State College, TheDream.us helped her pay for school.
“I think that if it wasn’t for this scholarship, I wouldn’t have gone to college in the first place,” said Rico Lopez, “just because I probably wouldn’t have been able to pay for my tuition and fees. Getting rid of that financial worry is a really great benefit as a student.”
Another option that undocumented students can use for financial aid is the Alternate Need Form, a financial aid form for students who may not qualify for assistance from FAFSA. Rico Lopez commented that the form itself has been changed to become much easier and more “user-friendly” for students to fill out. The deadline for students to submit this form for the upcoming school year is Nov. 15.
The addition of the scholarship opportunity from TheDream.us and the improvements to the Alternate Need Form gives hope to Rico Lopez for further support to the undocumented community in the future.
“The fact that we’re getting such a big scholarship on our institution, and that we’re definitely seeing a lot more support on our campus,” said Rico Lopez, “as well as just the fact that we’re talking about it increases our awareness of these issues…Since we’re talking about it, it’s also breaking the stigma behind these communities, and we’re trying to break down the stereotypes and myths that are behind this specific community. I think it’s a game-changer for our students who are able to come in and take advantage of this scholarship.”
When asked about her response to opponents to opportunities for undocumented individuals, Rico Lopez responded by citing the large amounts of illegal immigrants already present in communities in the United States.
According to multiple sources, estimates say that there are between 10.5 and 12 million undocumented people currently in the U.S. Seven percent of Nevada’s population is made up of undocumented immigrants, according to a report by Pew Research Center.
“They’re definitely a part of our community,” said Rico Lopez, “They’ve been here for many, many years. You may know someone who is undocumented, but they’ve never said anything. So it’s important to make sure that we’re including these individuals because they’re a vital part of our communities. They pay taxes, they’re contributing to our economy. They’re our neighbors, they’re our friends, even if we may not know their specific immigration status or situation, but they’re here and they need our help. They need our support. We’re all humans at the end of the day, we all have needs, and we need that sense of community for sure. And knowing that there are individuals out there who can support us or advocate for us because we’re here, we’re Nevadans, we’re Las Vegans and as a community, we definitely need to support each other.”
Rico Lopez works to help undocumented students with issues that range from financial aid to mental health in the Undocumented Student Program. If any student would like to seek help from that department, they can contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at 702-895-5658.