Monday, November 25, 2013
DREAM SCHOLARSHIPS MAJOR REVERSAL: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
When the national Hispanic Scholarship Fund announces is decision to reverse its policy regarding DREAM students, that will have been half the battle in the realm of scholarship eligibility. For 37 years, DREAM students were not eligible to apply or receive HSF scholarships. During that time HSF has disbursed more than $400 million in scholarships to 1.5 million students.
When the decision is announced, DREAM-DACA (Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals) students will become eligible for the HSF scholarships for this funding cycle. The HSF is the largest scholarship fund, foundation or organization in the nation that targets Latinos/Latinas. While many of us anxiously await to see the guidelines, we can assume that the change applies to students from all 50 states.
Because HSF is a private or non-profit (non-governmental) organization, it could have made this decision long ago, even without the new category of DACA students. Despite this, the HSF should be applauded for changing its policy. What should also be noted is that there are many other scholarships that have had the same exclusionary policy in effect for years. It is now time to change that policy for all the other private or non-profit national scholarships. There are no legal barriers.
It is also now time to change scholarship eligibility policies at the state and local levels (in all 50 states). Administrators should do this on their own, but if necessary statewide scholarship organizations must be petitioned. Perhaps it will be necessary to petition scholarships for each university also. For example, at the University of Arizona, there is also a private Hispanic Scholarship Fund that delivers more than $1 million per year to students. It also has the same policy, a policy that needs to change.
Because these are not governmental national or state policies, these policies cannot change by one stroke of a pen. No doubt, students in every state and every city will need to engage their own local scholarships. One simple way may be to wait for that HSF policy to be made public, and then for it to be taken to each other scholarship foundation across the country.It should have a snowball effect. It is highly likely that the scholarship foundations will willingly change. If not, then we will have new battles on our hands.
There may be an explanation that HSF gives as to why they changed their policy this year. But many of us know that a change.org petition with 1,111 signatures was submitted to them about two months ago (several hundred other signatures were subsequently turned in) and now we have that policy reversal. If that's what it takes, perhaps more petitions have to be drawn up. But each community will no doubt take whatever course is appropriate, which in some cases, may entail taking on public or statewide scholarship policies in the courtroom.
Because the deadline for HSF scholarships is December 15, the announcement should be made this week.
On behalf of those that signed that petition, I don't think there's any doubt that it was the DREAM movement itself that created this change. Gracias.
Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez
University of Arizona
2013 Baker-Clarke Human Rights Award recipient (AERA)