LUBBOCK, Texas — Undocumented students are now able to access emergency relief funds to help pay for college expenses, reversing a Trump-era directive within the Department of Education.
In response to the pandemic last year, Congress passed the CARES Act which set aside some cash for students who were struggling to pay for school. However the so-called higher education emergency relief funds were unavaible to undocumented students.
“Under the previous administration, the Education Department made a determination saying that undocumented students would not be eligible for the funds...even though, undocumented students were counted towards the overall student population in terms of how much money an institution should be given,” said Miriam Feldblum of the Presidents' Alliance.
Feldblum said the Biden Administration is in the process of reversing that decision. The change will allow students, like third-year Texas Tech University student Angelica Murillo, to begin the process of working with her advisors to receive financial help.
"It would have been nice," she said about the program which left her out when it was first rolled out in the spring of 2020.
Murillo, who anticipates graduating next spring, is a fashion design student who wants to focus her career on sustainability. And while she is at arm's length of finishing that degree, she acknowledges the steep financial barriers of getting there.
“My parents aren't able to pay for all of my college because there's four of us, so we have to pitch in," she said.
Murillo is a DACA recipient and has worked waitressing jobs and has to rely on her parents' help to pay for tuition given her ineligibility for federal financial aid. On top of that, Murillo has been the recipient of private scholarships designed for undocumented students.
Still, Feldblum insists undocumented students should’ve never been left out of the conversation. She says many undocumented students had to become caregivers or take on different roles at home at the height of the pandemic.
“It wasn't a surprise when so many students, especially those who are already in precarious financial circumstances, then start to drop out...or cannot continue. So there were direct and indirect barriers to students continuing on during the pandemic,” she said.
For her part, Murillo now intends to ask her advisors about getting access to the emergency funds while acknowledging her college career would have its fair share of challenges.
“Like, it's possible, but we knew it was gonna be a little hard," she said.
Although Murillo has certainly faced some setbacks at least there may be some help on the way.