Fewer undocumented students have applied for increased financial aid and lower tuition under the new DREAM Act than state officials anticipated.
When the state Legislature passed the measure giving in-state tuition and aid to certain undocumented students in May, state officials estimated that more than 600 students would apply. But as of Wednesday, only 160 students have applied for the program, according to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.
“I think internally we always knew this wasn’t going to be that large of a group of people,” said Larry Pogemiller, the office’s director.
Fourteen University of Minnesota students have applied, said Ginny Dodds, the office’s state grant program director. It was difficult to predict the number of people who would utilize the program, she said.
“A lot of undocumented people don’t identify themselves,” Dodds said.
109 students have applied in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, she said.
It’s unclear if applications will increase in the future, Pogemiller said.
The University is trying to raise awareness about the application process and the opportunities available for undocumented students, said Rachelle
Hernandez, the University’s Associate Vice Provost for Enrollment Management.
The Office of Admissions is planning outreach events to make information about the DREAM Act more accessible, she said.
Under the law, students who attended a Minnesota high school for at least three years and attained a diploma or equivalent can receive in-state tuition at Minnesota higher education institutions and be eligible for state financial aid.
Alfonso Sintjago, executive vice president of the University’s Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, said the program would allow more students to pursue higher education.
“They belong in the state,” he said. “They’ve been in-state since high school and deserve to have the opportunity to go to school in Minnesota.”
Critics of the DREAM Act, like University Regent Laura Brod, have voiced opposition about the program’s fairness since its adoption last July.
“It seems like then we are granting in-state tuition for those who are undocumented, but not in-state tuition to documented students,” she said at a July Board of Regents meeting.
Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, who authored the DREAM Act when it was introduced to the state Legislature last session, said that despite the low application numbers, it’s an important program for the state.