All students, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, will now be eligible for admission and enrollment at the University — including undocumented students without DACA status, President Jim Ryan announced Tuesday afternoon.
“Our mission as a university is to attract outstanding students who will make our community stronger and the world a better place,” Ryan said. “We should be open to all qualified applicants — and this decision is an important step in the right direction.”
The decision comes after years of advocacy by undocumented students and allies who have pushed the University to matriculate undocumented students and provide financial aid and support. Although in-state undergraduate undocumented students with DACA status have been eligible for financial aid from the University since Fall 2019, out-of-state or non-undergraduate students are not.
According to the University, federal law prohibits the extension of state financial aid to students not lawfully present in the United States unless allowed by the state, and Virginia law does not include such a provision. The University says it will be working over the coming year with foundations and legislators in Richmond to try and administer funding to support undocumented students.
In April, Gov. Ralph Northam, D-Va., signed into law legislation that grants in-state tuition at Virginia schools to all students who attended a Virginia high school for at least two years and can provide proof of filed taxes. The law goes into effect July 1.
UndocUVA, founded in 2015 as DREAMers on Grounds, wrote in an opinion column published by The Cavalier Daily in April that the University must also provide undocumented students with access to support networks and social infrastructure.
“Should the University matriculate all students regardless of immigration status, it should continue to ensure that all students have both the resources to thrive and the opportunity to advocate for missing resources without retaliation,” UndocUVA wrote.
The DACA program was established by the Obama administration in 2012 to provide temporary legal protection against deportation for undocumented people who arrived as children to the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the legality of the program in the near future, as President Trump announced plans to abolish DACA in 2017.
Kevin G. McDonald, the University’s vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, said that the University will continue to welcome and support current DACA students, regardless of federal policy.
“They have enriched our Grounds in countless ways, and removing additional barriers to enrollment and extending opportunities to more students will make us even better,” McDonald said.
In the Fall 2019 semester, there were 22 DACA recipients enrolled at the University.