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Updated Mar 16, 2014 - 12:06 pm

Undocumented students eligible for new scholarship program

Arizona DREAM Act Coalition staff members, other advocacy group representatives and young immigrants line up in Phoenix last August for guidance about the federal program called Deferred Action, that would help illegal immigrants avoid deportation. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
After United States Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act in 2010, several federally-independent initiatives have arisen to offer financial aid to undocumented college students.

Fifteen states currently have their own versions of the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) legislation, which was first introduced during the 107th Congress in April of 2001.

A new private scholarship, called TheDream.US, is the latest program to assist prospective and current college students who aren't documented U.S. residents, as NBC News detailed.

The scholarship's name is a pointed reference to the elephant in the room: the failure of Congress to pass the DREAM Act, which would provide some young immigrants brought here as children with conditional permanent residency, making them eligible for federal student loans and work-study programs. Launched last month by former Washington Post CEO Don Graham, the $25 million TheDream.US scholarship program promises to provide 1,000 students with up to four years of free tuition.

Despite the impact of the scholarship on as many as 1,000 undocumented students, however, some have described the initiative as measly in scope. A University of Arkansas professor quoted in the NBC story referred to the scholarship as a "drop in the bucket" when considering the the 1.9 million students who are eligible for such assistance. The real impact, that professor said, was found in the program's "effectiveness to place political pressure on legislators," not in its quantitative reach. And sweeping legislation, the professor says, is what's needed long-term to help students in such situations.

The scholarship is the latest, most high-profile attempt to sidestep congressional inertia by funneling private money into helping students who would be helped by the DREAM Act's passage. Since 2008, Educators for Fair Consideration, a nonprofit based in San Francisco, has been providing DREAMers with up to $7,000 in tuition. In 2012, University of California-Berkeley announced a $1 million scholarship fund for DREAMers, a donation from the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Foundation. Billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs' widow, have poured money into public campaigns supporting DREAMers.

For more information on TheDream.US scholarship or to donate or apply, visit thedream.us

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