DOVER, Del. (AP) — Delaware State University is joining with a national scholarship program to increase college opportunities for immigrant students living in the United States without permanent legal status.
Gov. Jack Markell joined school officials and former Washington Post chairman and CEO Donald Graham on Tuesday to announce the historically black school's partnership with TheDream.US, a privately funded scholarship program co-founded by Graham.
TheDream.US is also partnering with Eastern Connecticut University to offer Opportunity Scholarships for students who face barriers to higher education in 16 states.
"In four states, they are banned from some or all state colleges," Graham said. "Even if they pay, the doors are shut. In others, they are barred in practice because the states deny them in-state tuition."
The new scholarship program is aimed at helping students in states where TheDream.US says they are being "locked-out" of college opportunities. Those states are Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
University President Harry Williams said the scholarship program aligns with the school's mission.
"We have never said 'no' to anyone who wanted to come and get an education," he said.
Under the program, TheDream.US will offer 500 scholarships of up to $20,000 per year, or $80,000 total, for eligible "locked-out" students who have graduated from high school and are covered under a 2012 federal policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. That policy allows certain individuals who entered the U.S. before 2007 and before their 16th birthday to receive a renewable, two-year work permit and a Social Security number, which allows them to get a job.
The Dream.US also will make scholarships totaling up to $25,000 over four years available to students of similar immigration status living in Delaware and Connecticut.
Graham indicated that the program could expand to one or two other states in the near future.
Officials noted that no state money is involved, and that both schools have the capacity to accept students under the program without denying enrollment to others.
Sadhana Singh, a rising junior at Trinity Washington University, a private women's college in Washington, D.C., said the Dream.US program is helping her achieve her goal of getting a college education and becoming "part of America."
"I knew that my parents brought me to America for a reason," said Singh, who was born in Guyana and moved with her parents to Georgia when she was 13.
Singh said she graduated from high school in 2005, near the top of her class, but was barred from attending any of the bigger colleges in Georgia and could not afford out-of-state tuition at a community college. She worked for several years, helping her parents with finances, until she heard about the program in 2014.
"I've gotten a chance at life, and I've gotten the chance to actually be part of America," said Singh, who is studying communications and international affairs and hopes to become an investigative journalist.