Similar to many other universities whose officials have recently spoken out about accepting undocumented students, Boston University welcomes any qualified applicant regardless of their citizenship status, officials said.
According to a CNN article from Oct. 1, more and more institutions such as Harvard University, Columbia University and the University of Notre Dame have made it clear that their policy is to accept students regardless of their citizenship status.
However, these students may not be able to afford to attend BU directly due to their citizenship status.
BU spokesman Colin Riley said it is difficult for admissions officials to identify undocumented students during the admissions process. He said BU officials essentially have no way to know whether a student is an illegal immigrant, even after they are accepted to the university.
“We welcome applications from any qualified student,” Riley said. “We wouldn’t know it [if the student is undocumented]. The only way that [a lack of citizenship] would come to our attention is through the financial aid process.”
Despite being encouraged to apply, BU international relations professor Susan Eckstein said undocumented students are at a general disadvantage when applying to universities in the U.S., as they cannot qualify for government aid. However, such students can qualify for aid through the school because BU financial aid is not subject to government relations.
Eckstein said undocumented students should have a right to a higher education, and the BU community would greatly benefit from gaining any qualified student, regardless of his or her citizenship status.
“It is partly for the good of the university, but also for the good of the students,” Eckstein said. “They [BU] feel that kids who come here as a child — and it wasn’t their [immigrants’] own decision — should not be penalized in terms of their access to education.”
Riley said the only way an undocumented student could attend BU is if they happened to be able to independently finance their education, without government assistance. He said this is due to the fact that undocumented students are not eligible for financial aid.
“Federal loans are available only to U.S. citizens, so undocumented students are not eligible,” he said. “If there is an undocumented student at BU, their undocumented status is not a matter for BU. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is charged with dealing with immigration issues.”
William Collins, senior admissions coordinator for BU’s Center for English Language and Orientation Programs said there are many programs at BU, including CELOP, that assist international students in integrating into the U.S. higher education system once they are accepted.
However, Collins said CELOP verifies the citizenship of their students before they are admitted into the program.
“I cannot recall a single case of a confirmed undocumented student attending our department,” Collins said. “We verify the status of each student before accepting them to our program, full- or part-time.”
Foreign Student Advisor William Marion said in an email that since CELOP is an English as a Second Language program, undocumented students are not accepted and thus cannot use the program’s resources to their advantage.
“We do not have any undocumented students that we are aware of,” Marion said. “The majority of our students arrive with F-1 visas and we have some U.S. citizens who submit copies of their U.S. passports with their CELOP applications.”
International relations professor Joseph Wippl said there should be a process by which illegal immigrants and undocumented students can achieve proper documentation.
Additionally, Wippl said undocumented applicants should try to achieve citizen status if they want to fully benefit from the U.S. education system.
“There has been legislation in the U.S. Congress that hasn’t been passed yet to provide a path for undocumented people,” Wippl said. “There should be a clear process in place for a person to get documented … I don’t see how a person can go to school undocumented. I think it’s really important, as kind of goal to reach at some time, that everyone should be documented.”