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Undocumented Chicago Charter Students Target of New College Scholarship

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Undocumented immigrant youth graduating from one of Chicago's largest charter school networks at the end of the 2014-15 school year will be eligible for thousands of dollars each in college scholarship money through a new partnership.

The Chicago-based Pritzker Family Foundation is committing about $3 million dollars in scholarships to as many as 70 high school students in the Noble Network who, because they are undocumented immigrants, face major barriers to college enrollment because they are not eligible for federal student aid such as Pell Grants.

One of the foundation's leaders, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, is a long-time supporter of education reform efforts in Chicago, including Noble and other charter schools that serve the city's children. 

"This is a game changer," Noble Superintendent and CEO Michael Milkie said in a statement. "For the first time, all undocumented Noble seniors can plan their future knowing that they will have sufficient financial support to access a college of their dreams."

Noble is a Chicago-based charter school chain of 16 campuses and 10,000 mostly minority and low-income students.

To be eligible for the so-called Pritzker Access Scholarship, students must qualify for the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy—which provides temporary relief from deportation—and be accepted into a four-year college. The scholarships are meant to stand in for federal aid the students would have qualified for—such as Pell and MAP grants for low-income students—had they been documented.

The College Board estimates only 5 to 10 percent of undocumented students attend college, a figure cited by the foundation in announcing the new scholarship. 

Another high-profile scholarship program to benefit undocumented students was launched earlier this year by Donald Graham, a former owner of The Washington Post, along with Henry R. Muñoz III, one of the Democratic Party's top fundraisers, and Carlos Gutierrez, who was a commerce secretary under former President George W. Bush. That $25 million program is called TheDream.US.

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