Utah student wins scholarship but can't use it because of his immigration status

Published: Wednesday, June 11 2014 3:05 p.m. MDT

ST. GEORGE — A southern Utah honor student is scrambling to pay for his dream of a college education after he learned the law says he can't claim his four-year academic scholarship to Dixie State University because of his immigration status.

Roberto Jardon graduated from Enterprise High School in Washington County with a 3.91 grade point average. During his senior year of school, Jardon applied to Dixie State and was awarded a Chancellor Academic Scholarship, which is a four-year scholarship for full in-state tuition.

“It was one of the biggest moments in my life, thinking, 'Oh this is great. My parents don’t have to worry about college for me,'” Jardon said. “It was just a completely amazing moment.”

But after looking for other financial aid associated with school, Jardon learned he was not qualified to receive the scholarship because he's not authorized to be in the United States.

Jardon’s family came to Utah when he was 6 years old, and he is not a legal citizen. He will be the first in his family to go to college. He applied for and was granted a two-year grace period under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative.

President Barack Obama issued an executive order in 2012, which called for the implementation of deferred action. The program allows children brought into the United States by undocumented parents to apply for "deferred action," which temporarily halts any removal or deportation proceedings for two years if they meet certain criteria. One of the requirements is that applicants must be enrolled in school or have graduated from high school.

But his immigration status does not allow Jardon to accept federal or state money from scholarships. He does, however, qualify for in-state tuition rates under state law.

The university is working to get him into work-study programs and internships to make up for the scholarship, which Jardon said he is happy to accept.

“I don’t want anybody to get in trouble because of the situation. I just want to see what options are available to me,” Jardon said. “It just seemed like a great deal for me because I, at least, still get the money somehow.”

He is working two jobs this summer and will continue to work while enrolled at Dixie State University this fall.

“There’s thousands of kids just like me out there that are faced with the situation of, 'I want to go to college and I’ve worked so hard to get there all through high school,'” Jardon added. “Now when it comes time to (go to college), I can’t really receive all the stuff that I’ve worked for.”

Jardon’s friends say he’s earned the scholarship with his good grades and deserves to go to school without paying tuition. As a result, his friends, with the help of one of their mothers, ShaRee Hirschi, have started a GoFundMe campaign to help Jardon pay for his education.

“He’s an amazing kid. He’s going to figure out his future on his own,” Hirschi said. “I’m just trying to help finance it for him. He earned this scholarship by his grades, by his ACT. It’s unfortunate the circumstances of the laws.”

Email: mrichards@deseretnews.com

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