DREAMers Not Qualified For Federal Student Loans

by Joseph G. Lariosa


CHICAGO (jGLi) – The soaring hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants, including thousands of Filipinos, who might qualify under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, would be coming down to reality – they are not allowed to apply for Federal student loans.

But they are certainly welcome to avail of the hundreds of scholarships sponsored by the private sector although “a couple of states allow them to apply for a financial aid.”

The staff of United States Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL-05) issued this clarification after Representatives Quigley and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09) and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin held a congressional field forum last Monday, Aug. 27, in Chicago to explore the impact of the growing student loan debt on families and the economy.

The executive order signed by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced by President Barack Obama last June 15 limits the benefits of qualified Deferred Action applicants to obtaining a work permit, to applying for driver’s license and protecting them from deportation.

The staff of Rep. Quigley, who did not want to be quoted as she was merely speaking “on background,” said the question as to the inclusion of qualified applicants for Deferred Action euphemistically called “dreamers” is an “issue (that) is still evolving, and we can request more information from the Department of Education.

“That said, to receive federal aid, a student must submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form, which requires the student to provide proof of legal status. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals does not provide this status or a green card, so to our understanding, they would not qualify.”

Additional information issued by the Quigley staff said those eligible non-U.S. citizens, who can avail of the federal student loans, are as follows: U.S. nationals, who are natives of American Samoa or Swain’s island; U.S. Permanent residents; those with Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services stamped with “Refugee,” “Asylum Granted,” “Cuban-Haitian Entrant (Status Pending),” “Conditional Entrant” (if issued before April 1, 1980), “Parolee” (for at least one year, and meet other conditions); holds T-visa (for victims of human trafficking) or children of parents, who hold a “T-1” visa; “battered immigrant-qualified alien” or a child of a person designated as such under Violence Against Women Act; or citizen of Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Marshall Islands, or the Republic of Palau.”


The forum last Monday was hosted by Rep. Quigley in the Chicago City Council chambers, where the Illinois lawmakers heard testimony from a diverse panel of higher education experts, consumer protection advocates, and students affected by escalating debt that has ballooned to $870 billion. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan also provided perspective on for-profit colleges and the debt issues some of those schools have created for students.

“We have a vital interest in keeping the costs of higher education affordable for anyone who wants to pursue it. Not only is it the right thing to do for students, but this skyrocketing debt is having a significantly negative social and economic impact,” said Rep. Quigley. “The sad fact is that while college is supposed to be a route out of poverty and the key to personal success, the opposite is often truer.”

A June 2012 study from UNC-Greensboro found that “borrowing an additional $10,000 for education decreases the probability of marriage by 11 and 17 percentage points, respectively, for men and women …whose age is below 37.” A May 2012 study from Rutgers University found that student debt caused 40 percent of graduates to delay a major purchase.

“Student debt has become a life-changing issue, not just for students but also for the parents and grandparents who cosign for loans,” said Senator Durbin.  “My office often hears from students who have problems with their loans but have no idea where to turn for help.  When Congress reconvenes in September, I intend to introduce legislation to create a clearinghouse for student debt issues through the U.S. Department of Education, which will facilitate student inquiries and refer them to the appropriate entity.  We need to ensure all students have a chance to gain a meaningful education without mortgaging their future.”


“Congress must make student loan funding and providing needed relief to students saddled with student loan debt a top priority,” said Rep. Schakowsky. “It is vital to our economy that we work to bring down the cost of education to ensure that students are not priced out of attending college or hindered with years of debt after graduation. I am committed to efforts to make sure getting a higher education is affordable for every student.”

Rohit Chopra, Student Loan Ombudsman from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, discussed the issues of perils of private loans while Charlie Evans, Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, provided an overview of financial aid and how the state’s largest public university manages the process.

Two student witnesses also testified to the impact student loan debt has had on their higher education and post-collegiate decisions.

Katie Pantell is a National Merit Scholar attending Loyola University of Chicago on scholarship. Despite financial aid, she is still borrowing money to cover her daily expenses. Ms. Pantell testified that she’s worried that when she graduates with $20,000 or more in debt, she won’t be able to pursue Teach America or another public service position because of her debt and the accruing interest.

Alex Brooks graduated from ITT Technical Institute in 2006, but when he began looking for jobs, prospective employers told him he did not have the proper certification to do any computer programming, a requirement his school never informed him he would need.  Brooks’ situation highlights one of the criticisms of for-profit schools, some of whom use misleading recruiting practices that leave students unprepared and in debt.

Congressman Quigley has been actively working to protect the education benefits of service members and veterans, introducing the Military and Veterans Education Protection Act earlier this year. This legislation aims to close a loophole that encourages for-profit colleges to target active duty military and veterans using military education assistance programs. He sits on the Committee on Oversight and Government reform and previously co-authored an opinion piece with Sen. Durbin on the predatory nature of many for-profit colleges. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)




Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL-05), (center) fields question during a forum last Monday, Aug. 27, in the Chicago City Council chambers, where Illinois lawmakers heard testimony from a diverse panel of higher education experts, consumer protection advocates and students affected by escalating debt whose outstanding balance has ballooned to $870 billion, greater than credit card and auto loan debt. Looking on are Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09) and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (right). Quigley’s staff clarified that qualified applicants for Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals are not qualified to apply for federal student loan although the matter is an “evolving issue.” (jGLiPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)

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