Report by Jordan Lean Scanlon, SVR Volunteer.
February 24, 2021
TheDream.US is the largest college and career success program for undocumented students as it has provided more than 6,000 college scholarships to undocumented students across 75 partner colleges in over 19 states. It is funded by individual, corporate, and foundation donors such as the Pershing Square Foundation, Ford Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and more. The organization operates based on the belief that all young Americans, regardless of where they were born, should have the opportunity to pursue higher education. TheDream.US offers two scholarships—the National Scholarship and Opportunity Scholarship—which intends to provide undocumented students (with or without DACA or TPS status) with financial support for their higher education studies. Scholarship recipients must apply, be accepted to, and use funds at one of TheDream.US’s Partner Colleges in 19 states and Washington D.C., which consist of various universities within areas with high populations of undocumented immigrants. Such Partner Colleges offer career-ready, affordable associates and bachelor’s degrees and have a record of graduating first-generation, opportunity students to ensure that the specific needs of undocumented students are prioritized. TheDream.US works with each of its partner colleges to ensure the availability of undocumented student resources on campus, such as academic advising, financial aid advising, and mental health supports, while also providing other needed services for Scholars and alumni. Through its scholarships and services, TheDream.US aims to address the lack of opportunities that stems from federal restrictions on financial aid for undocumented students in the U.S.
The significant support that TheDream.US offers is evidenced by Wana, a TPS holder and beneficiary of the program. In terms of gaining support from The Dream.US, Wana’s journey began in high school while applying to college. After being accepted into four higher education institutions, she discovered that her status as a TPS holder in the United States impeded her eligibility for financial aid and as a result, she was unable to attend any of these schools. She then had to work for a year so she could afford to attend Briar College while paying for classes and other school-related expenses. Throughout this period, Wana conducted significant online research on available support with little avail. However, after two years, she discovered that TheDream.US scholarship is available to students enrolled in their post-associate degree studies so she applied to transfer from Briar College to Florida Atlantic University.
She was subsequently awarded a scholarship, thereby providing her with instant relief regarding the financial portion of higher education. The specific components of the program that she deems helpful pertain to seminar opportunities, such as conversations with immigration lawyers and housing advice, which provide relevant information on “building the American dream” for students of migrant backgrounds. According to Wana, the financial aspect of the scholarship was a significant relief for not only her but her family overall, which has led to her sister’s pursuit of a scholarship from The Dream.US as well. Furthermore, the stipend given to recipients diminished the transportation costs associated with traveling to school, which was yet another relief for Wana. As it relates to the strengths of the program from Wana’s perspective, The Dream.US hosted an event in which all program participants met which helped her realize her status as being a member of a larger community. Given the significance of this event, Wana suggests that there be an annual opportunity for all program participants to interact with one another in a similar capacity so that program participants may continue feeling this sense of community. She also emphasizes the need to promote scholarship opportunities, such as those offered by The Dream.US, as she experienced firsthand the struggle of accessing these programs during the college application process. In regards to Wana’s advice to university communities within the United States, the inadequacy of aid that is being provided to students of migrant backgrounds and the overall need for these individuals to have a platform in which they can voice their concerns is a primary concern that must be addressed.
Listen to Wana, TheDream.US recipient, interview with Jordan Scanlon, SVR Volunteer.
Meet SVR Volunteer, Jordan Scanlon
Jordan Scanlon, SVR Working Group 2 Volunteer; University of Maryland, College Park
Jordan Scanlon (she/her) is a Masters student in the International Education Policy program at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research interests pertain broadly to education in emergencies, particularly in conflict settings as well as refugee education. She is involved with the Education in Emergencies student organization at the University of Maryland and she serves as a graduate assistant in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. She is very excited to be joining the Student Voices for Refugees Network!