Two United Student Government Association (USGA) leaders have teamed up with the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) to create the Magis Scholars Fund, a scholarship program supporting undocumented undergraduate students.
Flavio Bravo, the student body president, and Amanda Keelor, a senator on the USGA’s Justice Committee, said the new initiative targets an issue that has been discussed frequently on campus but never concretely addressed by the Loyola administration: the accessibility of higher education for undocumented students, who do not qualify for federal financial aid, work study, Pell or Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants.
Although some students have received temporary amnesty through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — which defers deportation of undocumented citizens who came to the U.S. when they were younger than 16 and are no older than 30 — Bravo and Keelor stressed access to higher education is still very limited and unequal for undocumented students.
Safe Ally training sessions, aimed at students and faculty, have helped to make the community safer and more welcoming for undocumented students, according to the student leaders.
However, despite USGA legislation urging the administration to develop a scholarship program, and Loyola’s president, the Rev. Michael J. Garanzini’s pledge alongside other Jesuit institutions to support these students, Bravo said little has changed. Bravo recalled feeling disappointed when prospective undocumented students asked him at a college fair whether Loyola supported “Dreamers,” a term for undocumented citizens that have qualified for DACA.
“As the student body president I felt horrible telling them, ‘Yes, we’re a private school, we definitely support the cause — we support undocumented students — but the reality is that right now so many other schools are ahead of us,” said Bravo, a 20-year-old junior philosophy and political science double major.
Bravo said many selective schools, such as the University of Chicago, which pledged support for undocumented students, can meet their financial needs once they are accepted. In 2013, Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine became the only medical school in Illinois and the country, to publicly announce support for “Dreamers.”
However, Bravo said the Loyola undergraduate administration is still slow to act. Inspired by the Jesuit ideal of Magis, which means “more,” Keelor and Bravo sought a solution.
“Not only [does] every student and every person deserve access to higher education, but specifically at Loyola. We’re a Jesuit university; we pride ourselves on social justice and reaching out,” said Keelor, a 20-year-old sophomore political science major.
To challenge the university to become a leader in this issue, USGA and LASO will be hosting a forum in mid-October to raise awareness about immigration and its link to Jesuit institutions, which Keelor said were originally founded for immigrant families.
On Nov. 19 a fundraiser will be held where students can donate. Keelor and Bravo hope the funds raised by students will pressure Loyola to reciprocate by matching donations. This money will establish the initial scholarship fund and begin a serious conversation with the administration. Bravo and Keelor emphasized that the most important aspect of creating the scholarship is the student-led initiative.
“We have yet to see unanimous support from undergraduate students. Students need to be very vocal and show the administration that we support undocumented students,” Bravo said.
At the spring USGA elections, a referendum will ask students if they would be willing to contribute $2.50 to match what the federal government would typically offer a documented student.
Students already help pay for one another’s education through tuition dollars that subsidize programs and scholarships, such as the Damen Scholarship or Registered Student Organizations, Keelor said.
Many students have already expressed support for the scholarship. Daisy Urbieta, 19, a sophomore Ad/PR and Spanish double major, said she thought it was a great idea and would be willing to contribute.
“These students don’t really have as many resources and opportunities as someone who was born here. I would know that my contributions are going towards a student that really has ambition and is self-motivated and wants a higher education,” she said.
Terrence Carson, 20, a junior economics major, also supports the scholarship. “The affordability of college is a universal issue among all socioeconomic statuses,” he said.
However, he worries the Magis Scholars Fund will not address the heart of the issue: that the whole population of undocumented citizens not covered by DACA still face many inequalities and lack opportunities.
“Tossing money at [the larger issue] may just look like we are sweeping a larger problem under the rug,” he said. “We want to make it clear that undocumented students are welcome
here, and everyone deserves equal access to education,” Keelor said. “This may be a political topic, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s just about everyone deserving education and what we can do to make it equal for everyone.”