SAN JUAN, RGV – It may be difficult but it is not impossible for undocumented students to go to college or university with the help of financial aid.

This is the message of La Unión del Pueblo Entero special projects coordinator Tania Chavez ahead of tomorrow’s second annual FAFSA/TASFA Super Saturday event in the Rio Grande Valley.

La Unión del Pueblo Entero special projects coordinator Tania Chavez.
La Unión del Pueblo Entero special projects coordinator Tania Chavez.

Super Saturday sees all of the region’s universities and community colleges open their doors to provide help to students looking for financial assistance. UT-Pan American, UT-Brownsville, South Texas College, TSTC-Harlingen, and Texas Southmost College will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. to give Rio Grande Valley families one-on-one help with their financial aid applications.

“Financial aid contributed to my success in college because I was able to qualify for Texas grants and I was also able to get other types of aid, like scholarships,” said Chavez, who was undocumented when she went to college in the Valley, in a video to promote Super Saturday.

“Undocumented students have a lot of scholarships they could be eligible for. As an undocumented student, you need to be able to take advantage of that. Navigating college access as an undocumented individual is difficult but it is not impossible. I did and so can they.”

Chavez encourages undocumented students to talk to their counselors and financial aid officers at high school. “Go to Google. Yes, technology can help you. Don’t give up. Be persistent. It is different, it is challenging. However, it is possible. You can finish your college career. You can attain higher education despite your immigration status.”

Chavez encourages all high school students, undocumented or documented, who want to go to university or college to attend a Super Saturday event so they can complete the financial aid process.

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. TASFA is the Texas Application for State Financial Aid. TASFA is state aid available for undocumented students.

Asked why Super Saturday is so important, Chavez said: “Students who complete a financial aid application (such as FAFSA or TASFA) are significantly more likely to continue on to a college education. However, many students and parents are not familiar with the process and need the guidance of a financial aid advisor to help them through the process.”

To address the issue, Chavez said, RGV FOCUS and Communities Foundation of Texas, in collaboration with local colleges and universities, have developed a FAFSA/TASFA Super Saturday event. “This event will provide the opportunity for students and families to receive one-on-one help in completing tax returns, submitting FAFSA or TASFA applications and guidance on scholarship applications. Assistance will be available in both English and Spanish.”

RGV Focus leaders think it is important for both students and parents to attend a Super Saturday event together. “This will ensure that they both have a good understanding of what the financial aid process entails,” the group says.

What should the parents and students bring with them to the event? “Those attending the event should bring student and parent 2014 tax returns, W2 statements, and the student’s FAFSA pin. If 2014 taxes haven’t yet been filed, they should bring all W2 statements and any other statement showing income (1099 statements, Social Security Statements, etc.)”

The first annual Super Saturday, held last year, drew 1,000 Valley families. RGV Focus hopes this year to reach 1,500 students and parents.

RGV FOCUS was launched in 2012 to transform college readiness, access, and success across the four counties of Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy. The group is a “collective impact” initiative established by a cross-sector group of leaders. It meets regularly to identify assets and needs in the RGV, adopt a common vision, and establish shared goals, strategies, and metrics.

Chavez said door prizes, including scholarships, will be raffled out throughout the day at all the Super Saturday events. Students and parents get more information on Twitter by using the #RGVSuperSaturday2015 hashtag or by emailing [email protected]

Rolando Melendez of Harlingen High School South has produced a video to promote Super Saturday. It features advice from Chavez, Zachary Suarez of South Texas College, Jael Garcia of UTPA, Daniel Yarritu UTB, Blanca Carillo of TSTC, and Marisol Gutierrez of Texas Southmost College. Click here to watch the video.