Thursday, February 14, 2008

Find Alternate Finances...

...That is what undocumented Arizona college students were told in recent letter. The Sunburst Scholarship, awarded $12,000 to around 207 Arizona DREAMERS who graduated from Arizona high schools, basically bringing the cost of tuition for these DREAMERS to in-state price, since they are now forced to pay out-of-state-tuition. Next year there will be no more Sunburst Scholarship.

In any normal universe, the Sunburst Scholarship would hardly be controversial. The students in question have done nothing wrong: Surely, Lou Dobbs wouldn't suggest that they should have defied Mom and Dad as 3-year-olds, or even third-graders, and vowed to stay in Mexico unless their parents obtained valid visas. (Well, okay, maybe Lou Dobbs would suggest that. Sigh.) In the loony anti-Mexican climate in Arizona today, though, the scholarships were truly an act of courage, and ASU President Michael Crow should be applauded for them.

But the demise of the Sunburst Scholarship raises real questions.

For one: When ASU realized the funding had run dry, why did it not contact leaders in the Hispanic community to come up with a transition plan? The activists I've talked to said they'd heard that the scholarships were being terminated only after getting calls from frightened students. Turns out the students learned they were being cut off in a letter from the school telling them to look for alternate financing for next fall. Clearly, this could have been handled with a bit more grace.

Here's another question: Just how hard did ASU work on getting donations for this scholarship? I haven't heard any direct requests for support. Granted, I'm not rich and not an ASU alum; I wouldn't blame anyone for leaving me off their fundraising list. But with an issue like this, you'd think a public plea would be in order — if nothing else, a story in the newspaper urging people to give. I can't find any evidence that ever happened. When we last heard about this issue, President Crow made it sound as though the matter was taken care of. ASU had found private funds. Period.

Which makes me wonder this.

Did ASU really run out of money? Or was it just easier not to raise it?

With legislators breathing hot air and an angry mob at the gate, it surely would be easier for ASU to cut 207 Mexican-born students adrift than to keep fighting.

"The fact that they're stopping these scholarships makes me feel like the pressure was greater than they could take," says Luis Avila, a local Latino activist and recent ASU grad.

I hope Avila is wrong about that. But I have to admit he may be on to something.

The rest of the article can be found here.

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