By DANIELLE JAMES
Capital News Service
LANSING — The lack of a common admissions policy to public universities is creating confusion for DREAMers and other undocumented applicants.
Many undocumented students are confused about how to fill out applications, answer citizenship questions and complete financial aid forms, according to Christopher Tremblay, the director of strategic engagement at the Michigan College Access Network.
“Undocumented students fall into a population that needs additional support to get a college education,” Tremblay said.
Michigan is home to over 129,000 undocumented immigrants, including 13,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)-eligible individuals, according to a student guide from One Michigan for Immigrants Rights, the Michigan College Access Network, the University of Michigan School of Education and the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center.
DACA is a program providing temprorary protection from deportation for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
DACA students, called DREAMers, qualified if they came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday and completed high school, in addition to other regulations by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
According to the One Michigan Guide, no laws prohibit DREAMers and other undocumented students from attending college based on their immigration status. However, there is no universal admission policy that all 15 state universities follow.
Universities decide their own admission policy, according to Robert Murphy, the director of university relations and policy at the Michigan Association of State Universities. The association is a coordinating organization for the 15 state universities.
According to Murphy, most universities accept applicants regardless of immigration status. Almost every public university offers in-state tuition to DREAMers and undocumented students, said Murphy.
“By and large, I believe most universities treat these students as Michigan residents as long as they meet the rest of the qualifications for residency.” Murphy said. “Even without Lansing telling them what to do, they consider the situation carefully and try to help students. It’s about transparency and about access.”
According to Murphy, Michigan Technological University is the only public university that doesn’t offer in-state tuition to Michigan-based undocumented students and DREAMers.
Most colleges determine eligibility for in-state tuition by whether a student is defined as a resident.
“Residency is determined by each university’s board policy,” Murphy said. “That is something we protect so that each university can continue to set their own residency policy. Some universities have more in-depth requirements for who can be considered Michigan residents.”
Northern Michigan University offers in-state tuition to anyone classified as a permanent resident, according to Gerri Daniels, its executive director of admissions.
“If an applicant is a U.S. citizen, U.S. permanent resident, has approved refugee or asylum status or is undocumented or DACA, they follow domestic student application instructions and can be considered for domestic student scholarships,” Daniels said.
She said students can also qualify for in-state tuition if they graduate from a Michigan high school or earn a GED in the state. Northern Michigan allows students to apply without entering a social security number or driver’s license.
“If you graduated from a Michigan high school after having attended for at least three years and enroll at NMU within 28 months after graduation or GED completion, you are eligible for in-state tuition,” Daniels said.
Other public universities that offer in-state tuition regardless of immigration status include Central Michigan, Eastern, Grand Valley State, Oakland University, Saginaw Valley State, Wayne State, Lake Superior State, the University of Michigan and Michigan State, according to the One Michigan guide.
Undocumented students and DREAMers aren’t eligible for federal or state government financial aid in Michigan. However, many institutions still require them to fill out a financial aid form to qualify for institution-based aid.
Tremblay said, “We often have to work with counselors and advisors to help students because undocumented students don’t have legal status and don’t want attention called to them. Sometimes they don’t want to fill out paperwork because of those fears.
“The biggest recommendation that school counsellors can give is to fill out the paper version of the [form] and give it directly to the school,” Tremblay said. “It’s not going to the federal level but it can still be considered on file by schools.”
According to Arslan Anjum, a public relations representative for the student-run organization DreaMSU at Michigan State, it’s important for both counsellors and colleges to provide information to students.
“There are a lot of immigrant and undocumented students at MSU, so we want to help make their college experience as normal as it can possibly be,” Anjum said. “Normal is a privilege, and a lot of immigrant students don’t have that privilege.”