From DACA recipient to advocate: Championing AB226 for education equality

September 7, 2023 5:31 am
DACA rally DC

Assembly Bill 226 enacted into law earlier this year by the Nevada Legislature allows DACA recipients to get normal in-state tuition rates. (Photo: Drew Angerer, Getty Images)

As a young Latina and a first-generation college student, my journey through higher education is filled with obstacles and triumphs. The path to higher education was difficult for me when I arrived in Nevada four years ago because of financial burdens and systemic barriers. My story is not unique, as countless immigrants and people of color face similar challenges in their pursuit of education. According to recent statistics, the 2023 average tuition & fees of Nevada colleges amount to $5,551 for Nevada residents and a staggering $17,110 for out-of-state students. This stark disparity in tuition costs creates an unjust barrier for aspiring students outside the state, disproportionately impacting immigrants and individuals seeking to pursue education in Nevada, such as myself.

Education has always been a priority in my life, and I was determined to attend college despite being an out-of-state student. However, I was hit with a harsh reality when I saw my tuition soaring over $6,000 compared to the $1,000 a Nevadan pays for the same course, a difference that seemed impossible for me, a young woman working diligently to make ends meet. No financial aid was available for students like me, putting the dream of college further out of reach. The unequal tuition structure puts students from out-of-state or other countries at a significant disadvantage compared to Nevada residents, perpetuating inequality in the educational system.

I was driven to pursue higher education to change the work culture and challenge the lack of diversity in my field. Being the only Hispanic student in my class and the first in my family to pursue higher education in the medical field, the challenges seemed greater than average. Working part-time to support myself through college, I realized that paying $6,000 each semester was unsustainable, leaving me feeling disheartened and questioning whether my dreams were within reach. Further, I am committed to addressing the critical shortage of medical professionals in every county in Nevada.

My academic achievements allowed me to secure a scholarship that reduced my tuition to $2,000 but was still a considerable financial burden. I knew that only some students would be as fortunate, and many would be forced to abandon their aspirations due to financial constraints. Fueled by a desire to advocate for my community and address the struggles of undocumented students and immigrants, I found a community through a club at CSN that helped DACA recipients like me.

Sharing my story with this club ignited a spark of change. My experiences shed light on the challenges of out-of-state students, leading to my account reaching the office of Assemblyman Ruben D’Silva. Assembly Bill 226 allows DACA recipients and any other Nevadan to get normal in-state tuition rates, and I was filled with gratitude and hope as I witnessed lawmakers recognizing the need for reform in education. Different advocacy groups joined in support of this bill. Our trip to Carson City and the collective effort of passionate individuals working for the immigrant community’s needs reinforced my belief in the power of solidarity and unity.

Being involved in the fight for AB226’s approval fills me with a profound sense of accomplishment because I know firsthand the positive impact it will have on individuals like me. This achievement motivates me to continue fighting for the rights and opportunities of all immigrants, regardless of their status. Colleges and universities should become more inclusive and open their doors to those needing education and resources the most.

The statistics speak for themselves – the vast disparity between in-state and out-of-state tuition. This kind of economic segregation can restrict opportunities for those who seek higher education, hindering their ability to pursue their dreams and contribute meaningfully to society. As we celebrate the success of AB226, we must not rest on our laurels. Instead, we should push for even more comprehensive measures that ensure education is accessible to all, regardless of their background or immigration status.

In conclusion, AB226 is a significant step forward in breaking down barriers to education, but our work is far from over. We must continue advocating for policies that promote inclusivity, diversity, and equal opportunities for all students. My journey from a DACA recipient to an advocate taught me that change is possible when we unite and fight for what is right. I encourage every community member to share their stories and embrace their identities fearlessly. Doing so can pave the way for a brighter and more inclusive future.

Let us stand united in pursuing a more equitable education system that empowers all individuals to thrive and contribute to the rich tapestry of Nevada’s diverse community. Education is not a privilege but a fundamental human right that should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their background or circumstances. We can create lasting change and build a brighter, more inclusive future for all Nevadans.

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Teissy Angel Ramirez
Teissy Angel Ramirez

Teissy Angel Ramirez is a DACA recipient, student, and member of Make the Road Nevada, an organization that builds the power of Latine and working-class communities to achieve dignity and justice through organizing, policy innovation, and transformative education.