The Santa Barbara Foundation has announced that beginning in 2014, its student aid funds can be applied to the best qualified students from Santa Barbara County schools regardless of citizenship status.
As the single largest annual donor to the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, the foundation expects to provide $1.6 million next year in the form of student aid and requests that citizenship status no longer be a criterion determining students’ continuation of higher education.
Provisions for undocumented youth wishing to obtain higher education have become a hot button political issue in many parts of the country.
The Dream Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) has been the center of much debate over the last year, as government officials determine the best pathways for providing residency status and clear education markers for immigrants. In making this announcement, the Santa Barbara Foundation is acknowledging the changing demographics of the county, while reiterating its commitment to developing the next generation of civic and corporate leaders to support future economic vitality.
“Our country is engaged in a global competition for a talented workforce that can handle the complexities of the industries that propel our economy,” said Ron Gallo, president and CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation. “As is the case with every region in the United States, Santa Barbara County can not afford to not invest in all of its best and brightest.”
For the past 16 years, the Santa Barbara Foundation has awarded scholarships and loans to local students through the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara. This collaboration ensures that millions of dollars are efficiently distributed to the students of Santa Barbara County for student aid. Going forward, the Scholarship Foundation may apply Santa Barbara Foundation funds to the most qualified students regardless of status, using their normal process of identifying the highest achievers throughout the county.
“The Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara has been honored to partner with the Santa Barbara Foundation in the distribution of student aid awards since 1997,” said Colette Hadley, executive director of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara. “This partnership allows students to apply to one foundation to access funds provided by both groups. Our goal is to inspire, encourage, and support Santa Barbara County students in their pursuit of college, graduate, and vocational education.”
According to CollegeBoard — a nonprofit membership organization committed to excellence and equity in education whose mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity — there are an estimated 65,000 undocumented students (children born abroad who are not United States citizens or legal residents) who graduate from United States high schools each year. These children are guaranteed an education in U.S. public schools through grade 12, but may face legal and financial barriers to higher education as undocumented students cannot legally receive federally funded student financial aid nor can they receive state financial aid in most states.
While there is no federal or state law that prohibits the admission of undocumented immigrants to U.S. colleges, public or private, institutional policies on admitting undocumented students vary. For example, an undocumented student admitted to an institution may be treated as a foreign student, and thus ineligible for state aid and the lower tuition charged to state residents. Understanding the financial barrier this policy creates, the Santa Barbara Foundation is creating opportunity through the ability to apply for student aid.
“The Santa Barbara Foundation takes as its core values compassion, excellence, and integrity,” Gallo said. “Investing in the best students throughout the county regardless of citizenship status will give these young men and women the opportunity to live a more successful life and to acquire the competencies and experiences to contribute to and lead their communities.”
— Jessica Tade is the communications and marketing manager for the Santa Barbara Foundation.