Published October 17, 2012
A Latino CEO who donated a $1 million to launch a non-profit organization that offers full college scholarships for undocumented immigrants is in final partnership talks with up to five North Carolina colleges, he says.
Ric Elias, the Puerto Rican-born CEO of a technology company called Red Ventures, has launched Golden Door Scholars in the middle of a presidential race where illegal immigration, particularly for young undocumented immigrants or so-called DREAMers, is a contentious issue.
“I don’t really care,” Elias told the Charlotte Observer of his critics. “It doesn’t faze me. If we can get people talking about this, (criticism) may not actually be a bad thing, given the lack of understanding out there on this issue.”
The scholarship will be available to all undocumented immigrants in the U.S. this fall and promises to pay for all four years of a college in North Carolina, including room and board, while offering students mentorship, internships and job placement.
Details of how the partnerships will work are not entirely known, but the yet-to-be named four-year institutions are making these promises: To either cut their tuition rates by at least half, donate money to the fund, or help pay for a set number of scholarships so that the organization can help more undocumented students nationwide.
The non-profit is run by Elias’ Red Ventures volunteers. Elias said he hopes other CEOs and corporations will join him in offering thousands of undocumented students across the country an opportunity to go to college.
The scholarship announcement comes during a growing national debate over whether or not undocumented immigrants should be allowed to attend college, through legislative acts like the DREAM Act, and whether they should be allowed to pay in-state tuition rates.
Anti-illegal immigration opponents like Roy Beck, the head of Numbers USA, an organization in favor of strict immigration policy, stand by Elias’ right to start a private scholarship as an “act of charity.” But he wonders how many citizens, especially in North Carolina, could use similar help.
“There is always an opportunity cost, if your charity is for one group, it’s not going to another,” Beck said of the state’s lower income students, who are primarily black and Hispanics.
Beck also said college opportunities and in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants serve to entice more illegal immigration.
“In state tuition it is one of many enticements but it’s a second-level enticement,” he said. “The real enticement is the jobs enticement, it’s the failure of congress to mandate E-Verify.”
Proponents say young undocumented immigrants, particularly DREAMers, those brought illegally to the United States through no fault of their own, should be allowed to go to college and are in desperate need of private scholarships because they are not eligible for federal financial aid.
“There is going to be negative feedback. The thing we have been trying to make clear, this is not a political issue,” Kylie Craig, director of communications for Red Ventures and a volunteer for the non-profit, told Fox News Latino. “This is about doing what we believe is right. This is much more a humanitarian pursuit than a political pursuit.”
Currently, 13 states (many with large immigrant populations) have laws allowing undocumented students to receive in-state tuition rates. Other states, including Arizona and Colorado, prohibit in-state tuition rates for undocumented students.
The North Carolina legislature is considering a bill that would bar schools from offering in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants. But that bill remains stuck in committee after a contentious debate within the state’s academic community.
In North Carolina, an estimated 1,500 undocumented immigrants graduate each year from public high schools.
Since its website has gone public, Golden Scholars has received over 100 applications and inquiries about the scholarship as well as donation inquiries, Craig said.
“We,” Craig said. “Have just been completely blown away by the positive responses.”