DACA denied financial aid

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COLUMBIA - Despite a push from Missouri House Democrats, DACA recipients won't be able to get financial aid or in-state tuition under a new higher education spending plan taking effect on July 1.

University of Missouri student Jorge Soto has friends and family members who are recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. He said allowing them to receive financial aid would help immensely.

"My uncle pretty much had to take as many loans as he could," Soto said. "It really is that grind that we see our parents sacrifice a lot for us."

Soto, a double major in political science and international relations, said it is very unfortunate to see people denied aid.

"It would help close the income inequality gap that we have been seeing in our minority communities," he said. 

DACA students in Missouri who attend a public university must pay the same tuition as international students. They are not allowed to receive state scholarships. If public institutions do not follow the state provisions then they can lose certain funding.

At least 18 states have provisions allowing DACA students to receive in-state tuition. 

At the University of Missouri, in-state tuition cost about $27,964. However, out-of-state students paid about $43,552 this school year.

MU's executive director of financial aid said the average student took out around $22,000 in federal loans last year. 

DACA recipients must graduate high school or obtain a GED. Then they either complete higher education, military service or demonstrate long-term employment. The program is not a path to citizenship.

Soto said obtaining DACA status is much more challenging than people think.

"They want to live the American dream and be able to contribute. That’s what the DACA program is about, just giving everyone a chance," he said.

Supporters of in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants feel it's unfair to deprive undocumented students. Many of those students were brought to the United States by their parents when they were young.

Opponents believe providing lower tuition to DACA recipients takes away from U.S. citizens and legal immigrants.