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New donor-based CMC program to help Dreamers pay for college

John Stroud
Post Independent

Fund Sueños is a new donor-funded initiative to provide access to higher education financing for undocumented students at Colorado Mountain College. (File photo by John F. Russell)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Colorado Mountain College is rolling out a new donor-funded initiative to provide access to higher education financing for undocumented students and others not eligible to receive federal financial aid.

Fund Sueños, or the “Dream Fund,” is designed to help eliminate the up-front cost of tuition for students eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as Dreamers, who often struggle to finance postsecondary education and don’t have access to federal loan or grant programs.

The loan program is being funded with support from a group of initial private donors, including Crate and Barrel co-founder Carole Segal and a member of CMC’s Board of Overseers.

“Our educational and social mission extends to all Coloradans,” CMC President Carrie Hauser said. “Fund Sueños is designed to break down persistent financial barriers for Dreamers and other students to ensure we are inclusive and accessible to everyone, modeling the democratic promise of higher education.”

Hauser and other college officials point to research that suggests traditional student loan debt can work to suppress college aspirations for many first-generation students and those from historically underrepresented groups.

Dreamers, who came to the United States as children with their undocumented parents, have the additional barrier related to their immigration status. They’re authorized to work in the country but are not eligible for federal financial aid to attend college.

The Trump administration last year announced the end of the Obama-era DACA program, calling on Congress to create a legal path toward citizenship for Dreamers. That has yet to happen, so federal courts have intervened to protect DACA-eligible residents from immigration enforcement in the meantime.

“Dreamers deserve the opportunity to pursue an education,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper was quoted as saying in the CMC news release.

“These students need champions like the leaders at Colorado Mountain College and its donors who continue to stitch a safety net in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform,” the governor said.

Income-based payments

Fund Sueños works by allowing students to pay for college through income-share agreements, where students pay no up-front tuition in exchange for a fixed percentage of income after graduation over a set period of time.

Most jobs in Colorado’s growing economy require some form of education beyond high school, CMC officials said.

They point to a Georgetown University study which found that, without major changes to the U.S. postsecondary system, the economy will fall short 5 million workers with relevant certificates and degrees by 2020.

“Fund Sueños is just one of the strategic measures CMC is taking to close the achievement gap and ensure that all students reach their full potential,” according to the release.

Income-share agreements are becoming a popular option for many colleges and universities as college costs and student loan debt continue to rise. The agreements are designed to align costs with student success and provide an income-based payment option.

The Fund Sueños program will take effect immediately for CMC students who have limited or no other options. As designed, recipients will replenish the fund over time, “paying it forward” to future students, according to the release. That concept was important to donors and to members of the pilot class, Hauser said.

“The rising cost of higher education continues to be a barrier for many Dreamers, especially because they are not able to access traditional financial assistance,” added Luis A. Colón, chairman of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. “What CMC developed is truly groundbreaking and should serve as an example to the nation of how a creative, forward-thinking college can expand opportunities for all.”

Read the full story at PostIndependent.com


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