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UT-Austin scraps support program for undocumented students in wake of new DEI law

The University of Texas at Austin has ended a scholarship program and its parent organization for undocumented students in the wake of a new state law banning diversity, equity and inclusion — but some argue helping so-called Dreamers does not fall under the purview of the newly enacted legislation.

The scholarship ranged from $500 to $1,000 and was awarded annually as part of the Monarch Program, which provided information on internships and housing for undocumented students as well, the Dallas Morning News reported.

“University officials noted that the scholarship potentially violates Texas’ new ban on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in state universities and colleges, according to internal messages obtained by The Dallas Morning News. One message also references the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, or IIRIRA,” the newspaper reported.

But there is controversy surrounding the decision.

“Multiple undocumented students who were part of Monarch told The News that they want to know why the university eliminated the program citing the DEI ban. They said they were told throughout the fall semester that the program would be ‘safe’ because it’s not based on race or gender,” the News reported.

The student newspaper, the Daily Texan, quotes students who voiced similar arguments.

“Anyone can read section C of the UT System (SB 17 Working) Guidance that reads ‘Programs that enhance student achievements, without regards to sex, race, color or ethnicity are exempted,’” one student said. “We earned our admission here … we paid the school tuition, so we deserve answers.”

Senate Bill 17, which took effect Jan. 1, also states that an “institution of higher education may not establish or maintain a diversity, equity, and inclusion office or hire or assign an employee of the institution, or contract with a third party, to perform the duties of a diversity, equity, and inclusion office.”

Exceptions spelled out include “academic course instruction,” “research or creative works by an institution of higher education’s students or faculty,” and activities by student groups.

The Dallas Morning News points out that federal law states “an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible (…) for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit.”

“However, similar scholarships for undocumented students exist in colleges and universities across the country, including at public universities in border states such as Arizona and California,” the News reported.

MORE: Professor offers lessons exclusively for undocumented students

IMAGE: F-11 photo / Shutterstock

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.