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Illegal Immigrants Find Aid for College in N.M.

At least 10 undocumented students from Colorado
will get to attend classes at the University
of New Mexico this fall, with many
not having to pay for tuition or books.

A new Colorado law prohibits state colleges from providing
in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.

In New Mexico, the state is barred from denying education
benefits based on immigration status, said Terry Babbitt, director of
admissions for the University of New Mexico.

While New Mexico’s state financial aid is intended for
residents, Poudre High School counselor Isabel Thacker in Colorado found a way
for her students to receive in-state tuition, plus scholarships to cover it.

“Students can enroll for up to six credit hours and get
the in-state rate (at UNM),” said Alex
Gonzalez, associate director of the scholarship office at UNM.
“They can then go across the street to Central
New Mexico Community College
and enroll for another six hours and continue to pay the UNM
in-state tuition rate. They then are counted as full-time UNM

A full year of tuition at UNM,
or 12 credit hours per semester, costs $4,570.80, Gonzalez said. An
institutional scholarship available to undocumented students covers $5,000 of
their tuition and book expenses, meaning the students’ costs for attending
college would be minimal.

“The neat thing about the program at Poudre is that we
have been able to open the door of opportunity for these students,” said
Thacker, a Cuban-born citizen who came to the United
States with her parents when she was 9.

The four students who attended UNM
through the program last year all earned a grade point average of at least 3.0,
Thacker said. Students entering the program have an average GPA of 3.5, have
taken advanced placement classes and were involved in extracurricular
activities, Thacker said.

Nine undocumented students from Poudre High and one from Fort
Collins High School
will attend UNM in the fall through the

Former Colorado Senate President John Andrews, who backed
the campaign to deny certain services to illegal immigrants in Colorado,
said he was concerned about the program.

“Now that a high school graduate is of age, they are
recognized as young adults and they become responsible for their own
action,” he said.

“The only law-abiding choice that a young person like
this can make is to return to their country of origin after graduating high
school. I don’t think that we are doing a high school graduate any favors by
sending him or her the message that breaking the law benefits themselves. I
believe in the letter of the law, and I am deeply troubled by this
program,” Andrews said.

Information from: Fort Collins Coloradoan,

_ Associated Press

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