News: College Access & Success

New Brief Highlights Challenges, Solutions for California's Undocumented Students

Monday, October 21, 2019  
Posted by: Collete Hadley, Director of Consulting Services
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“California is home to more than three million undocumented residents, representing one-quarter of all undocumented immigrants in the United States. Of these, close to 600,000 are 24 years old and younger, accounting for one-fifth of the state’s undocumented population.”

These data points and many more are noted by the Campaign for College Opportunity (CCO) in its latest brief, “In Their Voices: Undocumented in California Public Colleges & Universities.” This timely publication showcases the experiences of undocumented students and highlights the ways in which state and college leaders can better support these students as they seek out college opportunity.

NCAN members from all states will find useful information in the report to bolster their arguments for increasing focus on the needs of undocumented students. California leads the way in recognizing the economic reasons for lifting up all students regardless of immigration status, but there is still much to do even in a state that embraces progressive values. With slightly more than 39 million people, California is the nation’s most populous state; 1 of every 8 U.S. residents lives in California.

The CCO report summary lists five themes that emerged from numerous interviews conducted with undocumented students, including the fact that access to financial aid is a key factor in an undocumented student’s ability to attend college. A novel recommendation emerged from the student conversations: efforts should be made to expand the time undocumented students can access aid, given that many undocumented students are heads of household and may take longer to earn their degrees.

In addition to access to financial aid, other subjects consistently mentioned by undocumented students as creating barriers are: critical support resources varying greatly from campus to campus; some campus climates being hostile to undocumented students; a need for clearly available access to legal advice for themselves and their families; and the fact that professional experience requirements for some undergraduate and graduate programs are particularly difficult for undocumented students to meet, due to the challenge of securing employment.

(Chart via The Campaign for College Opportunity)