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Government & Politics

What DACA's Demise Could Mean for Ohio Students and Their Universities

University of Akron campus
The University of Akron's total enrollment in 2016 was 21,100 according to NCES data. It's not clear how many of those students are enrolled through DACA.

Colleges and universities throughout northeast Ohio are responding to President Donald Trump’s recent decision to find a more permanent replacement for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — or DACA. WKSU’s Philip de Oliveira spoke with University of Akron President Matt Wilson about what that could mean for schools and their undocumented students.

President Trump has given Congress six months to come up with a long-term replacement for the Obama administration’s 2012 program that lets young immigrants -- who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children  -- work and attend school without fear of deportation.

According to Wilson, if Congress does not meet that deadline, universities will likely treat students enrolled through DACA as international students, which means much higher tuition.

“A university like the University of Akron would be looking at providing students with similar assistance that we might provide to international students,” Wilson said.

Students attending colleges and universities through DACA can fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), but they are not eligible for federal financial aid, according to the U.S. Department of Education. However, they can still be eligible for state aid and private scholarships, as well as merit scholarships from individual institutions.

What would happen to previously enrolled students?
Wilson said it’s not clear whether currently-enrolled students will be able to stay in the country to finish their degree programs, even if they can afford to do so.

“We don’t have a contingency plan in place at this point in time,” Wilson said.

Getting a read on students
But he did note that students can apply for a DACA renewal. If approved, Wilson said they could remain in the country for an additional two years. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, undocumented students have less than a month -- or until until Oct. 5 -- to apply for renewal.

A handful of Ohio schools, including Cleveland State University and Kent State University, have released statements pledging to protect their students enrolled through DACA. And all the presidents of Ohio's 14 public universities have signed a letter to Ohio's two U.S. senators uring the to support a replacement for DACA.

“We’re asking Congress to approve legislation incorporating a permanent solution to this issue,” Wilson said. “That solution (would permit) students to maintain their current status in the country and at our institutions of higher learning.”Wilson said the University of Akron would comply with federal authorities, provided they have the necessary paperwork before inquiring about students’ immigration status.

Meanwhile, “if somebody were to come to our campus with a subpoena issued by a court requesting information, that’s something we would need to comply with,” Wilson said. “Conversely, if you have someone who comes to campus without a court order, there are certain rules and restrictions we have as far as not disclosing information to third parties that are not authorized to receive that information.”

In most cases, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Acts (FERPA) protects students from having their immigration status disclosed by educational institutions.