Alexa Maqueo Toledo was a junior in high school in Tennessee when she enrolled in Spanish 4, the first course she’d take that offered students the chance to earn both high school and college credit at the same time.

She remembers hearing that the college credit was free, and it seemed like a great opportunity to knock some college credits out of the way early. Though that was the case for most of her classmates, Maqueo Toledo quickly learned it was not the case for her. She was born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States at age two with her mother. They came on a visa and stayed in the U.S. even after it expired. In Tennessee, undocumented students are not eligible for in-state tuition or state financial aid, which she would need for dual-credit classes.

“My teacher kind of pulled me aside and was like, ‘Hey, you need to go to your guidance counselor, there’s a little bit of complications with signing you up for this class,’” said Maqueo Toledo, who is now a college access fellow at the Education Trust in Tennessee.

Everything she’d heard about the dual-credit class was technically true, it just didn’t apply to her.  A state grant made the college credits free for most students, but U.S. citizenship was required. Without the grant, if she wanted to earn the college credits for the course she was already taking, she’d have to pay the community college’s out-of-state tuition rate.

An estimated 20 percent of community college students are actually high schoolers getting both high school and college credit for the courses they are taking. Students who take dual enrollment classes in high school are more likely to finish college.

Read the full article about undocumented students by Olivia Sanchez at The Hechinger Report.