Ric Elias is doing his part to make sure undocumented immigrants have access to a higher education…
The Puerto Rican entrepreneur, the CEO of the technology company called Red Ventures, has donated $1 million to launch a non-profit organization offering full college scholarships for undocumented immigrants, despite the current heated debate about illegal immigration, especially among young undocumented immigrants or so-called DREAMers.
The non-profit, called Golden Door Scholars, is currently finalizing partnerships with up to five North Carolina colleges, according to Elias.
“I don’t really care,” Elias told the Charlotte Observer of his critics. “It doesn’t faze me. If we can get people talking about this, (criticism) may not actually be a bad thing, given the lack of understanding out there on this issue.”
The scholarship will be available to all undocumented immigrants in the U.S. this fall and promises to pay for all four years of a college in North Carolina, including room and board, while offering students mentorship, internships and job placement.
While details on how the partnerships will work aren’t entirely known, Elias says the yet-to-be named four-year institutions are making these promises: To either cut their tuition rates by at least half, donate money to the fund, or help pay for a set number of scholarships so that the organization can help more undocumented students nationwide.
Meanwhile, Elias hopes other CEOs and corporations will join him in offering undocumented students across the country an opportunity to go to college.
The scholarship announcement comes during a growing national debate over whether or not undocumented immigrants should be allowed to attend college, through legislative acts like the DREAM Act, and whether they should be allowed to pay in-state tuition rates.
“There is going to be negative feedback. The thing we have been trying to make clear, this is not a political issue,” Kylie Craig, director of communications for Red Ventures and a volunteer for the non-profit, told Fox News Latino. “This is about doing what we believe is right. This is much more a humanitarian pursuit than a political pursuit.”
Currently, 13 states (many with large immigrant populations) have laws allowing undocumented students to receive in-state tuition rates. Other states, including Arizona and Colorado, prohibit in-state tuition rates for undocumented students.
The North Carolina legislature is considering a bill that would bar schools from offering in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants. But that bill remains stuck in committee after a divisive debate within the state’s academic community.
In North Carolina, an estimated 1,500 undocumented immigrants graduate each year from public high schools.
Since its website has gone public, Golden Scholars has received more 100 applications and inquiries about the scholarship as well as donation inquiries, said Craig.