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Further Limitations During College, Yet Here are some Resources and Suggestions

lcastrejon's picture

Depending on whether or not a state has a policy or rule clearly stating that undocumented immigrants are ineligible to be admitted into any public college/university schools, it is still possible for undocumented students to attend a college or university. Although it is definitely challenging for a student in this circumstance to be admitted into a higher institution, it can be just as challenging for the student to stay in college and graduate.

Once admitted into an institution, students are provided with unlimited amounts of support and resources they may utilize throughout their college career. Unfortunately, undocumented students are still limited from receiving the same kind of privileges because of their undocumented status even though they are considered to be students attending their respective institutions. For instance depending on the state the undocumented student’s school is located in, they may or may not be considered as a state resident to qualify for In-State tuition. Furthermore, these students are unable to qualify for Federal Aid therefore making higher education unaffordable and even more difficult to find other outlets for funding. Since undocumented students are unqualified to receive federal aid, they are also unable to qualify for Work-Study, which are rewarded to those who demonstrate financial need by the government. 

Even if an undocumented wanted to work on campus the likelihood of doing so is based off of whether or not the particular department at the college takes part in the E-Verify program. The E-Verify program was created through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Department (USCIS) in 1986. E-Verify is known, to confirm employment eligibility in the country. Since its creation, E-Verify has continued to be expanded from a couple of states to the rest of the 50 states in the country. At the moment, only businesses that are considered to be federal agencies are required to use E-Verify. When it comes to colleges and universities, they are provided with two options that can be further explained on USCIS' Frequently Asked Questions page.

Based off of the information provided, an undocumented student’s ability to work on campus therefore is slim because there aren’t many departments on campus that do not use E-Verify.

Aside from working and receiving financial aid, undocumented students are unable to benefit from the services provided by resource departments such as, the Career Development Office (CDO) at Bryn Mawr College, which help students identify available job positions post-graduation or summer internships, etc. In addition if an undocumented student were interested in playing a sport, that possibility is denied since students are required to provide proof of health insurance, which can still be difficult to attain if one does not qualify for Obamacare’s current eligibility requirements. In terms of studying abroad, undocumented students are restricted to choosing programs located within the country thus preventing them from still being able to undergo the abroad experience.

Undocumented students still continue to encounter further restrictions while in college, which prevents them from enjoying the complete college experience other students are given the opportunity to have. However, some resources and support networks undocumented students are qualified to benefit from are academic support resources in the case that a student may need extra support in a particular subject, taking part in extra curricular clubs that they may relate to, starting a club focusing on something they are interested in, receiving housing if their institution offers on-campus housing, taking part on the meal plan and more.

In recent years there has been news regarding undocumented college students promoting immigration activism on campus such as, Bryn Mawr College (BMC) and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. For example, Bryn Mawr College has taken a step forward by creating and publishing their policy regarding undocumented students on their First-Year FAQs page on their website after a number of students had begun to advocate for immigration rights and support for undocumented individuals on campus in 2012. More information on BMCs recent/current experience concerning undocumented students on their campus can be found on the Undocumented at Bryn Mawr post.

Although it is still a long way to go, people especially administrators working in higher education institutions should be aware of the fact that if their goal as an institution is to serve its students with unlimited resources and support, then they must continue to improve and reshape their efforts to accommodate all of its students. For example, the CDO can take the initiative in attempting to identify potential employers who’d be willing/able to employ undocumented individuals or departments can train its staff to be more aware and sensitive to the kind of hardships undocumented students already face and how they can still be of help to them. In addition upon raising awareness, faculty and staff can take part in deconstructing the fear behind undocumented students being unable to explain their situation especially if it is affecting their attendance and participation in class. If higher institutions begin to collaborate with undocumented students then an open dialogue can be establish to improve the institution’s ability to serve its students.