Undocumented Students

Esequiel Castro, Migrant Counselor
Esequiel Castro, Migrant Counselor
Jessica, Undocumented Student
Jessica, Undocumented Student
Bob Austin, Dean of Enrollment at AC
Bob Austin, Dean of Enrollment at AC

The number of undocumented students pursuing higher education is growing in our area. And there are more local resources available to them.

"Contrary to what most people believe, it's never been against the law for them to go to college," said Esequiel Castro, student migrant counselor.  "It's just that they were treated like foreign students. And had to pay four times the tuition."

In 2001, Texas became the first state to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition.

News Channel 10 spoke to a West Texas A&M University grad student, who received aid from the state. She preferred to remain anonymous. For the purpose of this story, we will call her Jessica.

"Do not think that just because they do not have the documents or the money for it, they can't do it," Jessica said about encouraging other students like herself to apply. "Just look for it. Because it's out there. It's money."

Last semester, Jessica qualified to receive $2,625 from the state to pay her university tuition. At local community colleges, students that qualify could receive up to $865 per semester.

"We have about thirty students, who may be undocumented, receiving aid and thirty others pending and we are working with them through the paperwork," said Bob Austin, Dean of Enrollment at Amarillo College.

By law, an undocumented student must meet several requirements in order to receive state aid.

  1. Must have lived in the state of Texas for a minimum of three years.
  2. Must have graduated from a Texas high school or received a GED in Texas.
  3. Have filed or will file an application to become a permanent resident at the earliest opportunity.

"If want to take care of yourself and at least get this money from Texas," Castro said. "You need to graduate recommended or distinguished."

But there are more challenges ahead for these students.

Undocumented students cannot receive money from the federal government. And a college degree does not necessarily guarantee them a job after graduation.

"Their opportunities for jobs may be limited," Austin said.  "And, obviously, the college has very little control over that."

College officials say most undocumented students enroll in career fields with high demand of workers. The most popular courses of study at Amarillo College are nursing and education.

"I know the necessity of teachers here," Jessica said about her career choice. "So, I hope that one day I will get a job."

Jessica graduated with a Bachelor's degree in education from WT. With financial aid from the state of Texas, she is now pursuing a Master's degree at the same university.