A college degree is increasingly essential to a successful future but the cost is more expensive than ever. It’s even more costly for students who don’t qualify for FAFSA due to their undocumented status.
That’s the problem Sarahi Espinoza Salamanca faced when she first pursued financial assistance.
Realizing she was denied financial aid because she was undocumented the young Latina looked for help. “I asked my counselor for guidance on other options to finance my college education and she said that people like me didn’t go to college,” Espinoza Salamanca explained to Forbes.
In order to get FAFSA assistance, applicants need a Social Security number. Unfortunately, this disqualifies the 3.6 Million DREAMers under the Obama Administration’s DACA policy.
“It took me a while to realize that I was probably not the only one in this situation and that is when the initial idea of ‘one day somehow I’m going to have to fix this problem,’” Espinoza Salamanca explained. Motivated, the Latina sought to turn her fledgling idea into a tool to benefit students like herself.
In 2014, Espinoza Salamanca submitted her idea — the DREAMers Roadmap app — to the Voto Latino’s Innovator Challenge. The app links undocumented students to scholarships that don’t require proof of citizenship.
The idea was such a success. Espinoza Salamanca won the Innovator Challenge in 2015 and secured $100,000 to re-invest in the app.
The DREAMers Roadmap app has helped over 20,000 students since it’s creation.
While building the app, Espinoza Salamanca found a common concern among students. The fear of government agencies learning about their status kept many from asking for help. So, in addition to offering financial aid, the app offers users a guarantee of privacy.
“One of the ways we protect our users is by only asking them for an email to create an account and not asking them for any personal information,” Espinoza Salamanca reassured of the app’s discretion. “We also created a feature called ‘Explore’ which allows any user to see all of our scholarships without having to create an account.”
With new financial options for these students, comes new possibilities. Espinoza Salamanca hopes to help facilitate even more college enrollment for members of the Latinidad.
“We as a country, we are losing so much talent and potential by making it so hard to educate these students.” Espinoza Salamanca continued, “We make it nearly impossible for these kids to have an opportunity to be an essential part of this country. This is our home too.”
If you’re interested in downloading the DREAMers Roadmap, you can do so for free! It’s now available for both Google Play and the iPhone app store.