GREENSBORO, N.C. -- “I'm sorry but you don't qualify, you're not a U.S. citizen, you're just not good enough.” Ariceli Garcia just graduated from Southeast Guilford High School in the spring and says she’s heard that rejection too many times. She and others like her say not qualifying for Say Yes to Education Guilford because they are undocumented students is heart breaking.
“This is what all the fighting, all the sacrifices were for to get me to go to college,” Garcia said. Garcia and three other students and their supporters protested outside a Say Yes forum for students and representatives of private universities. Garcia was brought to the United States by her parents when she was just a few years old.
Undocumented students don’t qualify for the last-dollar tuition assistance provided by Say Yes to public schools because they cannot fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. That application is how Say Yes determines the need of each applicant. The students are also not recognized by North Carolina as in-state students and therefore do not qualify to get the lower in-state tuition rate.
School Board Chairman Alan Duncan says the board supports these students, “These are talented people and we need to give them the full chance to contribute to our communities,” Duncan said. Duncan also says this was a problem for undocumented students even before Say Yes came to Guilford County.
“We have some students that are very academically high achieving students that have done great in their schools and they have not been able to go on to higher education because of the financial burden and the issues that are brought about because of their status,” Duncan said.
Say Yes Executive Director Mary Vigue says there are opportunities for these students to get tuition help and Say Yes is connecting them to those.
“We are trying to work with students to partner them with our private schools that will accept undocumented students and also provide financial aid and packages for them,” Vigue said.
Ten of those private schools were at the forum in Greensboro Tuesday night.