NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York University is jumping into the immigration debate by announcing that it will begin offering financial aid to undocumented students.

Universities have long offered scholarships, but New York University is among a few large private institutions with a financial aid process for undocumented students, complete with an application that requires a declaration of illegal status, WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane reported.

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The pilot program is open to those living in New York, the school announced this week.

NYU said it supports the Dream Act and are sympathetic to the circumstances and difficulties faced by undocumented immigrants, Murnane reported.

A school official told the Wall Street Journal aid would not be drawn from programs for U.S. citizens.

One freshman at the university said the program can help society’s outcasts, Murnane reported.

“Be integrated into the world and maybe you want them to actually become a documented immigrant after that,” the student said.

An international student in her second year believes this could bring students out of the shadows.

“Build a more strong future here,” she said.

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Some people have issued complaints on the university’s Facebook page.

I would prefer that you offer additional scholarships to documented students….plenty of them could use the help,” one person wrote.

“I respectfully disagree with this. This will be unfair to all the citizens and permanent residents who actually pay taxes and all their dues,” another person wrote.

Others praised the school.

“Thank God for this. Thank you NYU,” one person wrote.

Great step forward for NYU. I hope everyone will understand that it is not easy for undocumented people to become citizens of this country. It takes years and many dollars to become a citizen, and that is if the government grants it to you,” another person wrote. “So yes, it is great that NYU is giving undocumented students a chance, when the US government is making it difficult for them to receive a higher education.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama unveiled his plans to sidestep Congress on immigrations reform.

The president announced the plan to shield as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

It would protect parents of children born in the U.S. and those who have been in America more than five years.

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