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This university just voted to increase tuition if it means helping undocumented studentsby Fernando Hurtado
Campus#undocumented

WATCH | With 1,684 students voting for and 302 voting against, the referendum to increase tuition passed at DePaul University.

Updated Friday, May 12, 2017:

The results of the election were released Friday afternoon, and students voted to approved the referendum which will increase tuition by $2 every trimester in order to fund a scholarship for undocumented students.

The referendum now goes to the DePaul administration for review.

Below is the story as it ran Thursday, May 11, 2017.

WATCH | Students at DePaul University are set to vote on a referendum that would raise tuition by $6 to fund a scholarship for undocumented students.

Would you pay $6 more for your college tuition if it meant it would help your undocumented classmates?

Adan Figueroa at DePaul University is hoping the majority of students at his school say yes.

He's the vice president of Undocumented Vincentians and Allies (UVA), one of the student groups that introduced the referendum into the Student Government Association ballot.


"Our main priority was creating the access of funding [to] undocumented students."

Adan Figueroa

If the referendum passes, DePaul administrators will decide whether or not to increase the activity by two dollars every trimester.

With more than 23,000 students, DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, is the nation's largest Catholic university.

There's a precedent

DePaul's neighbors in the Windy City, Loyola University and University of Illinois at Chicago, have similar scholarships using the same model. 

"We've always valued service here," Figueroa said. And he's hoping that spirit of service at the Catholic university will help the referendum move forward.

While undocumented students are welcome on many college campuses around the country now, they have a hard time securing financial aid.

Most don't qualify for federal aid because of their legal status and the few scholarships available are highly competitive.

"The financial gap for undocumented students is from $4,500 to $17,000, not including room and board, so there's obviously a huge gap," Figueroa said.

The UVA student group "tables" at the student center four days before voting closes.

On a Monday evening at the university's student center, four days before the elections close, members of UVA have a table set up to inform students about the referendum and hopefully win their vote.

The students who stop are few and far between. But the ones that do write their name on a sheet of paper and then pose for a picture to pledge their support.

Two days later, on a Wednesday afternoon, the same spot has a table, but with a different group: the DePaul College Republicans.

The most fervent opponents of the referendum are the DePaul College Republicans and the Young Americans for Freedom group at the university.

"We're against this," says John Minster, co-chair of the DePaul College Republicans.

"You're forcing us to pay money for something that we inherently disagree with," adds Liam Owen, another member of the group, who's wearing a "Make DePaul Great Again" cap.

Minster says that if approved, DePaul should consider letting students choose whether or not they want to contribute.

Still, "we think it's going to pass," says Minster. 


Circa spoke to students on campus about how they would vote, and there seemed to be an overwhelming consensus.

"I voted yes already," said Emmaline Kelly, a student from Oklahoma.

"I would vote yes," said Dallas Wright, a graduate student from Chicago.

"Six dollars is negligible," said Christian Dobias, a student from Oak Lawn, Illinois. 

These are the signs students fill out and pose with to pledge their support for the undocumented student population at DePaul University.

Following the election of President Donald Trump, DePaul University declared itself a sanctuary campus in an email to students.

And in an email to Circa, it said that commenting on the referendum would be "premature" but that "the university is moved that these student leaders would care about the needs of their fellow students, especially since the name of St. Vincent de Paul, the patron saint of the poor, is above our door."

Regardless of what happens Friday, when voting closes, Figueroa says this referendum has served as an opportunity to inform students about the struggles of undocumented students.

"The history of DePaul is on our side," Figueroa said. "But where we are as a society in this country right now and how people at this institution feel, it may or may not be on our side."