WILLIMANTIC, Conn. (WTNH) — It may be controversial to some people, but Connecticut’s Governor and legislature have embraced undocumented students. Because of that, a large philanthropic organization has singled out one of Connecticut’s public universities to host hundreds of undocumented students, and they will pick up the tab.
This scholarship program will not cost the state one penny. It involves a campus that has room for more enrollment, so these students will not displace any legal residents.
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22-year-old Robert Diaz of New London will be one of the 1,200 students graduating next week from Eastern Connecticut State University. Robert and his parents came here from Santo Domingo a decade ago. They are all undocumented. A good student, he worked for part of his tuition as a residence assistant, and got tuition assistance where he could. He’s planning to go to grad school, and enter the field of environmental sciences.
The 5,000 member ESCU campus will soon be the educational home for hundreds of other undocumented students, like Robert, from Connecticut and around the region because of an unprecedented gift from a philantropic organization called TheDream.us that will pay the tuition here and at one other college in the East.
“This scholarship is going to open the doors for 500 students to have the opportunity to be able to come to Eastern State University and Delaware,” said Maria Gabriela Pacheco, the program director for TheDream.us.
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Governor Malloy, who signed the law granting in-state tuition rates for undocumented students back in 2011, came here to help make the announcement. “It makes me very happy,” said Robert following the announcement, “Just because I know now that students like myself will not have to go through all the steps in order to go to a four year university.”
Eric Cruz Lopez, another of the so-called ‘Dreamers’ who goes to U-Conn said, “I want to become a math teacher, I want to change math education for the better, to make sure that students are good at math.”
Cruz Lopez’s story is similar to Robert’s, except his family came here from Mexico and settled in Bridgeport with his parents working to pay his tuition. He adds, “We’re working hard. We’re here to stay and we’re going to keep working hard and we’re going to keep contributing to how we want to contribute to society.”
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Several states prohibit these students from attending their state universities and many more require them to pay out of state tuition rates. TheDream.us foundation says these scholarships will allow the young people who live in those states a chance to earn a college degree here in Connecticut and in Delaware.