Colleges target undocumented immigrants to boost enrollment

Western New Mexico University focuses recruitment efforts on DREAMers

Some colleges and universities have launched public campaigns to encourage undocumented immigrants to apply to their schools, Russell Contreras reports for Associated Press.

 Federal law does not prohibit undocumented immigrants from attending colleges and universities in the United States, and state laws vary on whether immigrant students who graduated from state high schools can pay in-state tuition rates. Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas allow students to attend and pay in-state tuition at state colleges. Under the proposed federal DREAM Act, which has stalled in Congress, immigrant students would be able to attain citizenship through college enrollment or military service. 

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Western New Mexico University (WNMU) recently launched a campaign targeting prospective immigrant students through social media and in-person recruiting efforts. It also placed billboards in Hispanic immigrant communities throughout the Southwest.

Other institutions, such as City University of New York and Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine also openly encourage DREAMers to apply.

Matthew Lara, WNMU's admissions director, says the university wanted to expand its reach to students in states beyond southwestern New Mexico, and DREAMers were a natural target.

Lara said that after recruiting its first group of DREAMers seven years ago, WNMU overhauled its tuition to attract students granted temporary residency status under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. DACA students living in Arizona, Colorado, and El Paso, Texas, can apply to the university and receive in-state tuition if accepted.

WMNU says it has received little negative feedback about its recruiting efforts toward undocumented immigrants and has even gained support from some lawmakers.

State Rep. John Zimmerman (R) says New Mexico needs to be sure that it is not encouraging immigrants to break federal immigration laws, noting, "We need to make sure that they have legal immigration status if they go to our state schools."

However, he says he is pleased that WMNU is providing educational opportunities (Contreras, AP/New York Times, 3/18). 

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