Immigration: Undocumented Students in Higher Ed

Key Findings:

  • There is no consistent policy regarding undocumented students. The consequences are a lingering perception among undocumented students that they are not fully supported.
  • All of thee undocumented students interviewed for this study found the admissions process challenging. From application to graduation, they are worried on who they can trust and if their undocumented status will “slip” and change their life or any family member’s forever.
  • A major barrier for undocumented students is finance, as they cannot receive any federal aid, including federal work-study stipends, and state aid is limited, or non-existent for them.
  • Students reported experiencing discomfort in class if the discussion turned to immigration issues, and most have encountered hostility toward the undocumented from their classmates and some faculty.
  • Staff unanimously agreed that the largest barrier facing undocumented students is post-secondary employment, because without lawful immigration status, job options are severely limited.

Recommendations:

Admissions

  • Designate specific admissions staff who will have the responsibility to work with applicants who are undocumented. When key staff leave the institution, insure this responsibility is passed on to a successor.
  • Provide training for all admissions staff so they understand and can help undocumented students through the admissions process.
  • Modify application forms to be clear that a student does not have to include a social security number or their citizenship status to apply.
  • Release a public statement that the university does not discriminate, nor make application decisions on the basis of immigrant status.

Financial Aid

  • Clearly identify the financial aid that is available for undocumented students.
  • Create a list of outside scholarships that undocumented students can apply for, and assist them in completing such applications.
  • Recognize that the financial challenges these students face continue throughout their education, including the challenge of paying for housing, textbooks, transportation, lunch, lab fees, and more.
  • Explore the creation of a “Common Fund,” initially with outside sources, to provide financial aid to undocumented students at all Jesuit universities.

OnCampus

  • Train student services/ support staff to understand the challenges undocumented and other students with limited financial resources face, particularly how to protect the privacy of undocumented students.
  • Design specific staff to support undocumented students and insure that the students are aware of who they are.
  • Understand that many undocumented students have family obligations that can create significant demands on their time.
  • Provide social and emotional assistance with confidentiality.
  • Insure that undocumented students, who often live at home and commute to campus, can fully participate in University life, both academic and extracurricular.
  • Identify legal resources at the University and in the community that can provide counseling for undocumented students.

Career Counseling

  • Train career placement staff on what undocumented students can do after graduation.
  • Create a database of alumni who were undocumented or who can assist undocumented students with their post‐graduate career.