Undocumented Students Are Denied Access to Institutional Aid

Apr 3, 2014

Credit zimmytws/iStock / Thinkstock

A group of undocumented students in Connecticut is urging state higher education agencies to allow them access to a state financial aid program, known as institutional aid. But higher education officials said their hands are tied.

Last month, Connecticut Students for a Dream, or C4D, filed a rulemaking petition with the Office of Higher Education, the Board of Regents, and the UConn Board of Trustees requesting that undocumented students be allowed access to institutional aid.

Advocates have been urging Connecticut to allow need-based financial aid for undocumented students. The group pictured here was in Hartford in March.
Credit CT Students for a Dream

Officials responded to the petition on Wednesday, saying they can't comply. They said they are bound by a federal law requiring states to decide on their own whether undocumented immigrants can receive state benefits, like financial aid for college.

Claire Simonich.
Credit UConn Political Science Dept.

Claire Simonich of Yale Law School's Workers and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic, which represents C4D, said higher education officials are misreading the federal law. "Connecticut courts have already long held that the regulations we've requested from agencies like the Office of Higher Education and the Board of Regents are state laws, and they carry the same force as statutes passed by the legislature," she said.

C4D said that moving forward, they hope to convince higher education officials to voluntarily change their policy, and to allow undocumented students access to institutional aid. If that proves unfruitful, they hope to make the change either through legislation or litigation.