Election 2016 has drawn the staggering cost of a college education to the forefront of the presidential policy battleground — and it's easy to see why. Americans owe a collective (and eye-popping) $1.3 trillion in student debt, with more than 7 million grads defaulting on their loan payments. While politicians and pundits are beginning to give the student debt crisis the attention it deserves, higher education's exorbitant price is only one part of a growing problem influencing many millennial voters. For children who came the U.S. as undocumented immigrants, the struggle to finance their college dreams remains a grueling battle, even in the country they've long considered home.
Meet Gustavo Ospina. Born in Colombia, Ospina moved with his family to the United States as a small child, settling in Elizabeth, NJ, nearly two decades ago. Ospina rose to the top of his high school class, balancing a long list of extracurricular activities with stellar grades, though his dream of a university education still seemed out of reach. Undocumented immigrants aren't eligible to supplement college tuition with federal aid, and they can't take out private loans, either. After graduating, Ospina worked at a warehouse to fund his community college fees, yet still dreamed of testing his talent at a four-year college. Undeterred, he was recently accepted to prestigious Columbia University, his top choice school, but all that ivy doesn't come without a price tag. Columbia's $60,000-a-year tuition would be a challenge for most American families, and it's an impossible obstacle for those, like Ospina, who have no access to government or private loan options.
Watch the video above to learn more about Ospina's fight to finance the education he's been dreaming of for so many years. Ospina's story showcases the same tenacity shown by innumerable undocumented young people striving for the American Dream.
About Behind the Headlines
Executive producer America Ferrera, in partnership with Refinery29, brings to light four powerful stories of what it’s like to be an immigrant in the US right now. This multimedia experience made up of video, editorial, and high-impact imagery — dedicated to humanizing the conversation around immigration.