Eastern Oregon University is taking a new step in its effort to reach out to undocumented students.

EOU is partnering with a major private scholarship fund, TheDream.US, to offer significant tuition scholarships to undocumented students. Many are students who came to the United States at a young age and have grown up here while attending public schools, said Tim Seydel, Eastern’s vice president for university advancement.

If annually renewed, the scholarships will provide qualified students entering Eastern as freshmen with up to $25,000 over the course of four years, and students entering with associate’s degrees up to $12,500 for tuition over a two-year period. The scholarships will be funded by TheDream.US.

EOU is one of 75 universities and colleges in 14 states and Washington, D.C., partnering with TheDream.US to provide undocumented students access to these scholarships. EOU and Western Oregon University are the only schools in Oregon.

“EOU is committed to providing access and opportunity to an increasingly diverse population in the state of Oregon,” EOU President Tom Insko said.

Insko said the scholarships will serve a critical need for undocumented students because they are not eligible to receive any type of federal financial aid, including Pell grants and federal work study.

“They face greater financial hurdles than other students,” Insko said.

He noted Eastern wants to reach out to the undocumented immigrant students who are living in Oregon. He said Eastern had focused on reaching out to undocumented students long before the scholarship became available about two years ago. He said the new arrangement is furthering those efforts.

“This is a new resource we did not have access to before the partnership,” Insko said.

He is excited about the new opportunity the scholarship will provide to undocumented immigrant students.

“They are an important part of society. We have a chance to lift them up and provide them with an opportunity to earn college degrees,” Insko said.

TheDream.US’s website indicates that the average high school grade point average of undocumented students receiving its scholarships is 3.5.

Bennie Moses-Mesubed, EOU’s Multicultural Center director, said many of the undocumented students eligible for the scholarships are people who came to the United States when they were very young and have never lived anywhere else since coming here. This means they are likely to remain in the region after graduating from EOU.

“This is the only place they know,” Moses-Mesubed said.

Insko said that TheDream.US agreed to partner with EOU because it was impressed with the services it offers students, Eastern’s relatively low tuition and the value of degrees awarded by Eastern.

Candy Marshall, president of the TheDream.US, expressed great enthusiasm about EOU’s commitment to helping undocumented students in a news release.

“We are excited to partner with Eastern Oregon University in giving Oregon’s undocumented immigrant students the opportunity to go to college,” Marshall said. “These young adults are highly talented and motivated students who want nothing more than to get a college education and give back to their families, communities and our country.”

A total of 10 TheDream.US scholarships are set to be awarded each year to undocumented immigrant students coming to Eastern. The application deadline is March 8 for scholarships that take effect this fall. Information about applying is available at www.eou.edu/fao/