GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Immigrant students at Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs, who are in the country without authorization, now have the opportunity to earn their degrees without paying upfront through a first-of-its-kind funding model.
The program — called Fund Sueños, which translates to “the Dream Fund” — lets so-called “Dreamers” wait until they graduate to repay their education through a fixed percentage of their income, The Denver Post reported.
The program is designed to assist the students, including those eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, who can’t obtain federal financial aid to help pay for a college education.
“We have a pretty large number of Dreamers in our mountain resort communities, and this is designed to help support young people that are often left behind,” said Carrie Hauser, president of the 11-campus college. “This is not at the exclusion of the other students we serve. It’s our way of hopefully contributing to the conversation and to be part of something we hope can inspire other institutions.”
The program operates through an income-share agreement in which eligible students receive $3,000 per year — covering the full cost of tuition and fees at the college. In turn, they agree to pay the school 4 percent of their earnings over a maximum of 60 months after they graduate — if they’re making at least $30,000 a year.
Students who don’t make the minimum of $30,000 annually don’t have to repay anything. Once the 60-month period is over, even if students haven’t finished paying off the money they were gifted, the income-share agreement ends.
To be eligible, students must be at least 18; be currently enrolled at Colorado Mountain College in a degree or certificate program; be unable to utilize federal financial aid; and, if not a U.S. citizen, be eligible to work.
Private donors fund the program entirely, with no institutional funds or contributions from state or federal aid, college officials said.
The pilot program, which begins this fall, still contains uncertainties related to potential federal immigration policy changes.
“We knew that there is a possibility that these students could lose their ability to work in the United States with immigration reform,” said Matt Gianneschi, Colorado Mountain College’s chief operating officer. “We don’t know the ultimate outcome of what might happen with the program.”
Two donors underwrote a $50,000 pilot program so the college could assure students that, in the event there’s a change in immigration law and they can’t finish the program, their debt would be vacated.