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Tuition-free initiative has room for improvement

Queens College Sociology Professor Amy Hsin
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U.S. Sen Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) may not have had the chance to become the president of the United States and help American public colleges across the country become tuition-free. But on April 10, with Sanders’ help, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was able to make that a reality for students attending CUNY and SUNY schools.

Nevertheless, Cuomo was not able to broker a deal on providing safeguards under the Dream Act to allow undocumented students to receive tuition assistance for school in New York.

Some students and educators have concerns about Cuomo’s plan. Queens College sociology professor Amy Hsin is one of them.

Hsin takes issue with how this will affect undocumented students at Queens College. On campus, Hsin has students that are undocumented and some of them are a part of the activist group called CUNY Dreamers.

Although their parents brought them to the United States illegally, Dreamers are allowed to get degrees at CUNY schools. But without proof of their status as Americans, like state IDs, they are not able to receive grants and scholarships that are tied to proof of citizenship, according to students that have applied to them. “I’m glad that CUNY decided to do a tuition-free program, but it’s sad that it won’t apply to Dreamers in New York state,” said Dulce Hernandez, 21, a senior. “We are at poverty level. We have to save up and work. It’s stressing.”

Hernandez believes that by denying Dreamers a chance to be a part of the program, they will not be able to become fully integrated into college life and remain dedicated to their studies like other students.

Hernandez was devastated that new Dreamers will end up like her and not be able to afford to go on to study abroad or be a part of an internship outside of school.

“It would have given us more opportunities to explore ourselves,” Hernandez said. “If I was a part of the program, it would be nice to travel. Spending 20 years in one country and not going out and recognizing the world, it’s sad. I know my parents struggle to put food on the table.”

As a result of President Donald Trump’s stance on immigrants, many Dreamers are afraid to seek help elsewhere.

“People that receive welfare that are undocumented and have kids that are citizens, they are not reaching out for help anymore because they are afraid that immigration status will fall into the hands of ICE,” said Muller, who was brought to this country when she was 15 months old.

Some of the help these students would receive is the Tuition Assistance Program, a grant for New York State residents, and the Federal Pell Grant, offered throughout the country. Both help students of meager means, according to the Higher Education Services Corporation website, which provides scholarship information.

To get SEEK, seniors in high school with “outstanding records” in terms of grades and community service receive financial assistance to different CUNY schools. They also get to apply to colleges early, receive mentorship while in university and get trained for highly coveted jobs before graduating.

“When I graduated high school, I got offered SEEK at John Jay, and I wasn’t able to take it because of my undocumented status,” Muller said. “My brother, however, does have SEEK for City College, and so I see the difference. I’m happy for him, but it hurts because I’m not different from him.”

While she couldn’t carry the course load necessary to work in education and teach Urban Studies, Muller plans on helping individuals facing the same set of circumstances.

“I’m thinking about working at a non-profit that helps undocumented people who are trying to figure out their lives,” Muller said.

Hsin hopes that one day that the issues for Dreamers gets addressed.

“We failed to pass the Dream Act in the federal and the state [Legislatures], so these undocumented students continue to struggle because they cannot access financial aid,” Hsin said. “About 3 percent of our students are undocumented.

“They are some of the brightest, and they have to already overcome huge barriers.”

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

Posted 12:00 am, May 8, 2017
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Reader feedback

wallymac from queens says:
Illegals have no rights to anything under the US sun. There are 2 kinds of immigrants: legal and illegal. duh.
May 8, 2017, 4:52 am
Deport from Queens says:
They should all be deported and should not be taking good college seats from our legal and American students! Go back to your own country and apply the LEGAL way just like everyone else! Stop claiming that you are all refugees.... If eneryone claims they are a "refugee" then 3/4 of the world would be allowed to come to the usa anymore since most of the world is at war. FIX YOUR OWN COUNTRIES and stop crying to us. America and its citizens has its OWN problems so Go home!!
May 8, 2017, 5:49 am
... says:
Actually, undocs have rights. SCOTUS has ruled on this 1000s of times. Open borders!
May 8, 2017, 9:04 am
Helton from Flushing says:
Funny, I always hear people like ...says: say that "Illegals don't get any public benefits. That's not true."

Yet, the young lady in this article clearly states “People that receive welfare that are undocumented..."

So, apparently illegals DO receive public benefits.

One more thing - :says: needs to get his facts straight. Illegals have the right to emergency health care. That's it.

They have absolutely zero legal rights as far as staying in the country. None. That's because they're illegal. I worked for the U.S. Customs Service. I had to know the law, and THAT is the law.

Knock yourself rooting for open borders. It's over under this President.
May 8, 2017, 10:23 am
How do you think you got here? from Upstate NY says:
Immigration to the US used to be a lot less restricted back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and I really think we should go back to that model. After all, who's going to pay for Social Security once all the baby boomers retire? It's the original Pyramid Scheme, and there aren't enough Gen X'ers and Millennials to do it without help. Let's let people in and teach them to be American. Very few of us are from this part of the world originally; the county did it before and it can do it again!
May 8, 2017, 12:29 pm
... says:
Correct!!

Helton, my point was that they had a right to due process, not civic services.
May 8, 2017, 12:40 pm
Helton from Flushing says:
...says:

You are correct that they have the right to due process.

Let me ask you - do you think that illegal aliens should receive public benefits like welfare?
May 8, 2017, 4:04 pm
Madeforareason from Queens says:
Immigration to the US used to be a lot less restricted back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and I really think we should go back to that model. After all, who's going to pay for Social Security once all the baby boomers retire? It's the original Pyramid Scheme, and there aren't enough Gen X'ers and Millennials to do it without help. Let's let people in and teach them to be American. Very few of us are from this part of the world originally; the county did it before and it can do it again!

Back in the 1800s and early 1900s, there was no welfare programs, no medicaid. We had more room to house people, more natural resources and enough jobs to go around. Things are NOT the same as the 1800s and early 1900s. Times have changed and we now have immigration laws. So laws were made for a good reason. Deport!!
May 8, 2017, 6:18 pm
Madeforareason from Queens says:
If they go back to their motherlands then they could go to school for pennies on the dollar! My neighbors who are LEGAL immigrants from bolivia have a son who is planning on moving back down to Bolivia to take up his doctorate down there and after his residency is up, he will move back here! All of this because college tuition down there is practically nothing! So go back to motherland and you wont need to complain about tuition costs up here!
May 8, 2017, 6:26 pm
informed person from flushing says:
Undocumented immigrants pay $12 billion of taxes every single year according to the Social Security Administration. Look it up and stop getting your info from fox news. If you want to get rid of immigrants lets start with Melania Trump who does not even pay taxes according to her husband, because he is "smart."
May 9, 2017, 1:30 pm
Helton from Flushing says:
Informed...

I don't care how much money they pay (and how many stolen SSN's are they using to pay those taxes?).

How about they - and you - respecting and obeying the laws of this country?

Just because someone wants to come to this country doesn't mean they have the right to break the law in order to do so.
May 9, 2017, 10:03 pm
Informed person from flushing says:
I was responding to others who based their views entirely on costs. Predictably when that view is challenged others move on to the respect the law, argument.

I do not think all laws should be needlessly enforced if they are not a danger to our society. If someone Jay walks it may in fact be a crime but if it does not impact society in a negative way I do not care if it is enforced.

I suspect you feel the same way about jay walking but not about immigration and that leads me to believe your talk of "respecting laws" is based more in prejudice than the impact of breaking the law in general. If immigrants bring more positive to the country than negative we should in fact grant amnesty which would make the law a non issue.
May 10, 2017, 10:54 am

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