Colorado Mountain College Creates Unique Tuition Assistance Program for DACA, Other Students
January 13, 2020

​Across the country, undocumented students face remarkable challenges in attending college—including how to pay for it. But in Colorado, undocumented students—who cannot apply for most financial aid—now have at least one more option as they decide how to finance their degree.

When Colorado Mountain College announced a new $1,000 President's Scholarship for graduating high school seniors, they received a flood of interest—and some questions—from  high school counselors.

“We started getting notes of gratitude and lots of really excited high school counselors reaching out to us," Matt Gianneschi, CMC's chief operating officer, said in an article with the Colorado Independent. “But what we didn't anticipate was that we also started hearing from the same counselors saying, 'Well, what do we do if the students aren't allowed to apply for additional financial aid?'" 

Colorado is home to around 15,750 DACA recipients, and the area served by the college attracts many immigrant workers. In order to better serve all local residents and recent high school graduates, college administrators began to look at other options to support those unable to receive federal financial aid.

As Gianneschi told the Independent, he kept thinking there was more they could do, given that CMC educates such a large segment of the population—"the teachers, nurses, firefighters, hospitality workers and other segments of the labor force of Colorado's mountain communities," he said.

And so CMC became the only school in Colorado to offer an income share agreement (ISA) to DACA students and others who have authorization to work, have financial need, but do not qualify for federal financial aid. Fund Sueños provides interest-free support and requires that borrowers agree to pay back into the fund a percentage of their income for a set amount of time after they graduate.

CMC has a strict set of guidelines in place to ensure that students do not end up paying more than they borrowed—and to address the criticisms typically leveled at these agreements. In addition, the college directs all repayments to CMC's foundation, which through additional private donations replenishes the original ISA fund and helps other students pay their way through school.

Now, a year into the program, 12 current CMC students are using the fund. But thanks to a recent $500,000 anonymous donation, Gianneschi is confident that Fund Sueños will be able to support other students for the foreseeable future. And while he isn't aware of any other institutions that have started an ISA as a result of CMC's program, he has been regularly fielding calls—some from nearby Denver, some from as far away as Australia.

​At a Glance

Member Institution: Colorado Mountain College

Initiative: Income share agreements for DACA and other students with work authorization

Goal: To financially support Dreamers and give them more access to higher education.