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Undocumented students hope NY Dream Act will help with tuition

Lorena Torres, 18, is a senior high school student in Queens and DACA recipient applying for college. She applied to Columbia, Syracuse, Tulane and some state schools. She hopes the NY Dream Act, if signed by Governor Cuomo, will make it easier for other undocumented high school students like her to afford in-state tuition.

SALCEDO 1: Lorena Torres is a high school senior in Queens. Like many of her classmates, she is applying to college. She got into one of her dream schools Syracuse University. But tuition there including room and board is almost $70,000 dollars a year. That means she may have to consider another school: Baruch. Tuition there is much less. A little over $20,000 dollars a year.  But Torres has a problem.

TORRES 1: A lot of the American kids that have a lot of debt, their parents are middle class and for us, their middle class is like being rich, for us, our middle class is their poverty.

SALCEDO 2: Torres is undocumented. That means she can’t apply for federal or state scholarships. Almost 75 percent of undocumented children live in families below 185 percent of the federal poverty line compared to 40 percent of native born children, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

TORRES 2:  Even if we do have to work, we are poor and they are not…

SALCEDO 3: Under NY law, there are 146,000 undocumented public school students who cannot receive NY’s Tuition Assistance Program, or TAP.  So Torres and her family have to pay for college out of pocket.

TORRES 3: For me to work for school, is like yes I can do it and you can do it too but I also have other things to take care of, like my family… they also need help from me. For them at least your family can help you and help you pay for it and I don’t have those benefits. We don’t really have the same opportunities.

SALCEDO 4:  If signed into law the NY State Dream Act would provide 27 million dollars in scholarships and financial aid for undocumented students like Torres. Assemblywoman Carmen de la Rosa is the bill’s sponsor.

DE LA ROSA 1: We are punishing them by not allowing them to have access to financial aid in order to earn a degree and make better wages…

SALCEDO 5: The bill was first introduced in 2013. De la Rosa hopes the money will be available for students by next fall.

DE LA ROSA 2: We’ve heard the stories of Dreamers who have had to work three or four jobs in order to make ends meet, so when this young person gets to the most vulnerable part of their life, when they’re about to go to adulthood and continue to contribute positively to their community, they’re told, you can’t do that here.  

SALCEDO 6: Lorena Torres, the high school senior in Queens, hasn’t responded to Syracuse or Baruch yet. Until the bill is passed she says she is stuck.

TORRES 3: When my family thinks of me going to school, they see themselves rising out of our poverty, they see us getting to a better place in life… and that’s what I see to. Me being able to provide for my family better.

SALCEDO 7: The NY Senate and Assembly must reach a budget agreement by April 1st for the bill to become law.

Andrea Salcedo, Columbia Radio News.


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