The funding will help college students continue their education.
The Hispanic Women’s Organization of Arkansas has awarded more than 500 scholarships during the last two decades and for the first time, the Springdale-based nonprofit is offering scholarships specifically for DACA college students in Arkansas.
Established in June 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, or DACA, provides undocumented individuals who were brought to the United States as children the ability to live and work in the country legally if they meet certain criteria.
Thanks to a law passed in 2019, DACA recipients can pay in-state tuition at public Arkansas colleges and universities, which is significantly cheaper than out-of-state tuition fees. However, DACA students can not access federal financial aid through programs like FASFA, the Free Application for Student Aid.
“Because these individuals do not count on federal aid, they have a lot less opportunities of course because of their status,” HWOA event coordinator Berenice Alcala says. “We decided that they are the ones that we need to focus on right now.”
DACA recipients must renew their status every two years and that renewal fee is about $500 plus any legal fees if an attorney is hired to file the paperwork.
“Yes, this is such a great program and it offers so many opportunities, but it also implicates a lot of additional costs in order to keep it up to date,” Alcala says.
To afford renewal fees and tuition, DACA students often work, but the pandemic has threatened that source of income for those who have had their hours reduced or have been laid off. By offering these emergency scholarships, HWOA is working to accomplish its goal of increasing the number of Latino students who attend and graduate from higher education institutions.
Thanks to support from the Hispanic Federation, HWOA will award 25 scholarships worth up to $1,000 each. Applications are open to DACA beneficiaries in Arkansas who have a high school diploma or GED and are attending a technical school, college or university during the fall 2021 semester.
When selecting scholarship recipients, officials will consider the Hispanic origin of the student, academic record, community service and leadership activities and/or family responsibilities.
“Opportunities such as this one are so important and we really hope that students take advantage of it because we want them to be able to achieve their goals, be able to get that higher education,” Alcala says.
Applicants must be a current DACA recipient to be eligible. In July, a federal judge in Texas ruled the DACA program is unlawful, but President Joe Biden said the Department of Justice will appeal the decision. For now, current DACA recipients may continue to renew their status, but new applicants will not be accepted.
“We are so supportive of this movement and we hope that they revoke this and open it back up for everyone again,” Alcala says.
The deadline to apply for the HWOA DACA Emergency Scholarship is Aug. 17. Students must apply online. More information is available at www.hwoa.org.