Undocumented students deserve more from UT during the pandemic

Brodi Amos

Editor's note: This column was submitted to the Texan by a member of the UT community.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act has left certain groups with no financial support during a period of economic hardship unlike any the United States has seen since the Great Depression. One such group of people who have been overlooked by this federal stimulus package are undocumented college students.

Of this $2.2 trillion stimulus package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act includes more than $6 billion set aside for emergency aid to be distributed to postsecondary students at the discretion of their respective colleges and universities. Proportionally, undocumented college students alone are responsible for generating up to $132 million of this emergency funding distributed nationwide via the act.

However, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos stated after the initial funding distribution to universities that emergency grants funded by the act could only be distributed to students who are eligible for federal financial aid. As a result, undocumented students have been purposely excluded from receiving emergency funding from their colleges and universities through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act – this includes those who have earned the right to live and work in the U.S. lawfully as a result of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

In addition to being excluded from higher education emergency grants, undocumented students were ineligible to apply for the $1,200 stimulus check, leaving this demographic as one of the most vulnerable in terms of the financial devastation that has resulted from the current pandemic.

The majority of university systems have been largely complicit in the face of these intentional federal oversights. However, certain schools have made it a priority to pledge solidarity to their undocumented students by providing financial support through other university funding outside of the federal aid.

The University of California System and California State University System have both used their own institutional funds to help their undocumented students cover costs associated with housing and technology required to attend virtual classes. Colorado State University leveraged its own funds to deposit $1,500 into the accounts of each of its undocumented students in order to account for their ineligibility to apply for federal stimulus funding during the pandemic.

The University of Texas needs to back up its claimed commitment to creating a welcoming space for all students, including undocumented students. One way it can do so is by utilizing its funding as one of the wealthiest university systems in the country in order to help these students survive through this unprecedented financial hardship.

Undocumented students contribute to the value of the University and to our Austin community. UT needs to ensure that they have the support that they need so that they too can finish their education and go on to change the world.

Amos is a first-year Master of Science in social work student from Temple, Texas.