Guest Column: Student Immigrant Movement Urges Baystate Action on Education Equity

From PHENOM’s 2015/16 Newsletter:

By: Carlos Rojas-Álvarez, Campaign Coordinator

When I was five, my parents decided to immigrate from Medellín, Colombia to Boston, Massachusetts in search of opportunity and a better life for their only son. The promise of the American Dream drew us to the cradle state of public education in America where I immediately fell in love with school. We worked hard. Each of my parents held down two, sometimes three, jobs and I enrolled at Boston Latin School where I took on any and every challenging class and extracurricular activity I could, all in the hopes that someday I would be able to go to college.

Unfortunately, Massachusetts is NOT one of the more than 20 states that already allow undocumented students like me to qualify for in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities regardless of immigration status. Our state has fallen behind Texas, Florida and Oklahoma, among others, in ensuring access to higher education for immigrant students to the detriment of families, colleges and universities, and our economy, which depends on an educated workforce to remain competitive.

This year, I will finally be applying to college three years after graduating from high school. I hope to stay in Massachusetts close to family and loved ones in a state I consider home but I’m worried that I won’t be able to afford it.

In 2016, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Higher Education has a historic opportunity to assert the universal value that education is a human right for all, not just some, by supporting the Education Equity Act, which would allow thousands of undocumented students like me, to finally fulfill our dreams of attending college in the Commonwealth. At a time when all of our public community colleges and universities and teachers and professors across the state demand action on tuition and financial aid equity, we call on the Massachusetts legislature and the Democratic Party that controls it to act and do the right thing.