A+ expansion may include students who arrived to the US illegally

3 years 4 months 3 weeks ago Wednesday, July 16 2014 Jul 16, 2014 Wednesday, July 16, 2014 1:56:00 PM CDT July 16, 2014 in News
By: John Zupon Jr., KOMU Reporter

COLUMBIA - Missouri's A+ program could be expanded to include high school students who came to the U.S illegally before turning 16.

The Missouri Department of Higher Education is taking a look at its wording of what qualifies a student as "legally present." Currently, students who are not legally present cannot receive any financial aid. However, if it adds students who have applied to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, those students would be able to receive financial aid.

Students who applied for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" status could be available for the scholarship, which pays for two years of education at a community college. 

The proposal to extend A+ to students in the Deferred Action process contradicts a measure passed in Missouri last legislative session. HB 2003 says no student can receive in-state tuition if he or she is "unlawfully present," but the expansion of the A+ program would not be breaking the new law. 

"Under Missouri statute if you are legally present then you're eligible for certain financial aid programs and A+ is the primary program that is effected," said Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education Leroy Wade.

People can apply for Deferred Action if they meet the following criteria, according to the DHS.

1. Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
2. Have lived in the United States for five years;
3. Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, completed the GED, or are honorably discharged veterans;
4. Have not been convicted of a felony offense or a threat to security of the nation;
5. Are not above the age of 30.

"The question people were asking is that when they gave Deferred Action to these young people it said that they didn't have legal status. But the question was, 'did they have legal presence?' which is key, and those two things are different," Bill Thornton, general counsel for the Department of Higher Education said. "Later they updated it and said these young people have legal presence and that is what made the impact on the Missouri statute."

Wade said the Missouri Department of Higher Education has no time table for making a decision. 

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