Illinois Dream fund unveils scholarship program for immigrant students

October 26, 2012

(WBEZ/Shauna Bittle)
A new private scholarship fund will help immigrant students with their college tuition fees

Immigrant students in search of financial assistance to go to college will soon be able to apply for private scholarships in Illinois.

The Illinois Dream Fund, an established non-for-profit in charge of managing the scholarships, unveiled the new initiative on Friday morning.

The scholarship program is part of the Illinois Dream Act, a law that increases immigrant students’ access to college. The measure, signed into law in 2011, called for the creation of the Illinois Dream Fund Commission, a group of stakeholders in charge of raising money for the scholarship program.

Tanya Cabrera is one of the commissioners and chair of the Dream Fund. She said there are specific requirements to qualify for the program.

“We are looking for students who possess a 2.5 GPA or higher, who are current seniors, who are graduating either entering at the two year level... or at the four year level institution," she said.

The scholarship program offers financial aid to immigrant students who are undocumented or who don't qualify for any type of federal student aid.

Maria Gonzalez is an undocumented student at the Illinois Institute of Technology. She pays for college working at a retail store. Her school also gives her a merit based scholarship each year. After that, she needs to come up with about $3,000 each semester.

She admits that money from the Dream Fund could make college less stressful for students like her.

“So there is always the struggle,” said Gonzalez. “Am I gonna actually be able to come up with all this money? …I need to work more, but I cannot work more ‘cause I need to be full time in school to keep the scholarship.”

For Gonzalez finishing college is an opportunity to make her parents proud.

“For me finishing school means a lot,” she said. “They wanted a better future for us; they wanted us to have more opportunities than what they had.”

So far, the Illinois Dream Fund raised under $500,000 in private funds for the scholarships, but their goal is to raise a lot more than that.

“Our goal is actually to raise five million dollars. We are looking for contributions big and small to make the scholarship a reality,” said Cabrera.

The application period starts November 1. For more information about the scholarship visit the website www.illinoisdreamfund.org.