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University of Virginia Extends Financial Aid To DACA Students

Many students brought to the U.S. illegally as minors, known as DREAMers, gained legal status and a path to higher education in the U.S. through President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

This week, the University of Virginia decided to extend financial aid assistance to in-state, undergraduate DACA students. 

“Our view is that they should also be eligible for financial aid, just like other students,” UVA President James Ryan said in a statement. “It seems to us the right and smart thing to do.  Our community is stronger when more students can afford to study here, and this change will help make a difference.”

Under Virginia law, DACA recipients who reside in Virginia are considered in-state students when it comes to college admissions. That’s meant that they’re eligible for in-state tuition rates, but not necessarily any financial assistance.

According to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, federal law prohibits them from receiving federal and state-funded aid. But some schools like UVA have decided to use private funds to extend financial aid to DACA DREAMers like Sebastian Renzo Yupanqui.

“It’s a huge relief, and definitely takes a lot of weight off of my and my parents’ shoulders,” Yupanqui said. 

Yupanqui says he’s been working two full-time jobs this summer to help pay for tuition at the McIntire School of Commerce, where he starts classes this fall. With financial aid, he says he’ll be able to consider unpaid internships next summer, which he says he needs to advance his career.

Undergraduate DACA students at UVA like Yupanqui are now eligible for the same financial aid as all other in-state undergraduate students, including the schools’s recent promise of free tuition to students from families making under $80,000 a year.