In 2012, just months after American college student-loan debt ballooned to over one trillion dollars, Pitzer College began offering a scholarship specifically for illegal immigrants from Latin American countries. “We, every single year, offer one full-ride scholarship to an undocumented student who resides [illegally] in California… It’s called the Arnaldo Rodriguez scholarship, and all of the information can be found on our website,” Pitzer College admissions counselor JR Ramsey told the Independent. The school’s website states, “Pitzer College established the Arnaldo Rodriguez Scholarship in honor of the college’s former Vice President of Admission and Financial Aid” because of an experience Rodriguez had “meeting a high school student who was at the top of her class and had lived in the US all her life but didn’t qualify for any financial aid due to her undocumented status.”
The Pitzer College website states, “the need-based, four-year scholarship is awarded to top-performing students of Latin American descent who attended high school in California and are not citizens or permanent residents of the United States.” These students also must fit a certain ethnic profile. “For people of full European descent, unfortunately [the scholarship] doesn’t apply,” Ramsey said. It follows from this that African and Asian students, too, are unqualified for the award, but Ramsey did remark “if you’re part-Latino, you’re fine” and “if you’re in DACA categorization, that still counts.”
The scholarship covers the costs of full-time tuition, student activities fees, housing, school-provided medical insurance and a meal plan. In total, this sums up to around $70,000 per year—more than a quarter of a million dollars over the course of an undergraduate education. The largest and only merit-based scholarship given by Pitzer, the Trustee Merit Scholarship, offers $5,000 per academic year—a tiny fraction of the amount given to undocumented immigrants—and does not increase with hikes in tuition and student fees as the Rodriguez scholarship does.
Undocumented applicants to Pitzer who do not receive this unique scholarship offer are treated the same as international applicants when considered for standard financial aid. “If your high school counselor is willing to put in a good word for you” in order to help an applicant receive this special scholarship, Ramsey stated, “they can shoot an email to Santiago Ybarra, the director of our office. It’s perfectly fine for them to reach out and talk about all the things you do in the community, the things you do in school, and why they think you’d be a great applicant not only for Pitzer, but also for what is embodied by that scholarship.”
Ramsey noted that few Pitzer students are undocumented. “We only have the flexibility to offer one scholarship [per year] through that fund,” he said, “but I will go ahead and insert a little plug for Pitzer while I’m on the phone with you and say even outside of the admission process, I think [undocumented students] find a lot of support here at Pitzer. The culture of our campus here helps students of that categorization thrive academically.”