Perlmutter, Polis, DeGette Among 100+ Members of Congress to Urge Obama Administration to Expand Access to Federal Student Services for DACA Students

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Lakewood, Colo., June 21, 2016 | comments

Lakewood, Colo. – U.S. Representatives Ed Perlmutter (CO-07), Jared Polis (CO-02), and Diana DeGette (CO-01), along with 110 other Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, sent a letter to the Obama Administration urging it to expand access to Federal TRIO Programs (TRIO) for students who are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In Colorado, there are over 16,000 DACA residents.

Students who participate in TRIO are from low-income families and the first in their families to attend college. Beginning in middle school and continuing through college, the programs provide critical student support services through mentoring, academic and financial counseling, and tutoring.

In 2010, the U.S. Dept. of Education established a rule that only U.S. citizens can participate in TRIO even though, in several states, DACA and other undocumented students are eligible for in-state tuition. The regulation is not required by law, meaning the U.S. Dept. of Education has the authority to change it and expand access to TRIO.

“TRIO is a very valuable program to hundreds of underserved constituents in my district who want to attend college and succeed in Colorado. We need to make sure everyone has access to the program, including students who qualify for DACA so they can access tools to succeed and make it in America,” said Rep. Perlmutter.

“In Colorado, and in several other states, we fought hard and successfully for DREAMers, kids who were brought here at a young age and grew up here, to attend college at in-state tuition rates. Now we need to empower them to succeed in college. Programs like TRIO give kids from diverse backgrounds the tools they need to not only attend college, but also graduate with a degree,” Rep. Polis said. “The current ban on DREAMers is above and beyond the requirements Congress set out in law and is holding students back. It's time to fix it."

“TRIO has proven successful in providing opportunities for Coloradoans and unlocking the potential of thousands of students across America, but it will not be fully successful until we extend these programs to all who need them. DACA allows young men and women the chance to follow their American dream and TRIO will help them realize it,” said Rep. DeGette.

TRIO serves nearly 800,000 students nationwide every year through its eight programs, as well as several programs in Colorado and in the 7th Congressional District including Front Range Community College and Red Rocks Community College.

Below is the full text of the letter. 

The Honorable Barack Obama

President of the United States

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write as strong supporters of your Administration’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the 2014 Expanded DACA (DACA+) program. These actions have given over 700,000 individuals, many of whom have spent almost their entire lives in the United States, a reprieve from the fear of deportation. We believe that students who qualify for DACA should have the same access to education services and benefits as full U.S. citizens, and in particular, access to Federal TRIO Programs that support college access and success for disadvantaged students. TRIO has provided life-changing services for many students, but because of a regulatory requirement finalized in 2010, TRIO centers are limited to working with students who are U.S. citizens. The citizenship requirement is solely the result of Department of Education regulations and is not a requirement in statute. We write to encourage you to take swift action, through whatever means available to you, to eliminate the citizenship requirement for TRIO and expand the program to beneficiaries of DACA.

The first Federal TRIO Program, Upward Bound, was established in the Educational Opportunity Act of 1964, and was created to remove barriers to college access and completion for disadvantaged youth. Since then, TRIO has grown to eight programs serving nearly 800,000 students in 2,800 programs across the country. TRIO Programs begin as early as middle school and continue through college, serving first-generation students from families at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty line. They’ve opened doors for many students of color, first-generations students, and students from low-income families by providing mentoring, academic and financial counseling, and tutoring, and they create an invaluable community of support for their participants.

Today, almost half of states, through legislation or decisions by the state Board of Regents, allow undocumented students to receive in-state tuition rates. The opportunity to receive in-state tuition rates puts college within reach for many undocumented students. On average, in-state tuition rates are several thousand dollars less than out-of-state tuition rates, and as a result of these savings, many colleges and universities have reported increases in the number of undocumented students enrolling in postsecondary education.

Too often, students who are DACA-eligible are turned away from participation in TRIO because of their immigration status. Many undocumented students who attend college or hope to attend college would benefit from participation in Federal TRIO Programs. In 2010, however, the Department of Education finalized regulations under Title IV of the Higher Education Act that established a citizenship requirement for students participating in TRIO, a restriction above and beyond the statutory requirement. Federal TRIO Programs across the country, including those in our congressional districts, regularly turn away students because of their immigration status. Even though many students now have access to in-state tuition rates, they are unable to participate in the programs designed to enable and encourage their success.

As supporters of your Administration’s actions on immigration, we respectfully request that you give DACA-eligible students the right to participate in TRIO Programs. Deserving students have been denied access to TRIO for far too long. This corresponding change to adapt TRIO to DACA would allow many students already eligible for in-state tuition rates to also receive the support that encourages their success to and through college.

It is well within your power to change the interpretation of or overturn the 2010 regulation, and we encourage you to do so swiftly and immediately.

Thank you for your attention to this issue. We look forward to working with you as your Administration implements this important change.


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