Report: More Can Be Done to Assist Undocumented Community College Students in California

A new report by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s office reveal that more needs to be done to assist undocumented students in the areas of financial aid, legal services and mental health.

The Dreamer’s Project Report, an analysis of the support that the 111 community colleges in California provide for the estimated 50,000 to 70,000 undocumented students in California, highlighted the challenges that these students face in earning certificates, associate degrees and/or transferring to a four-year college or university.

The findings were revealing: the current support systems are inadequate in addressing these barriers.

Of the 111 institutions surveyed, 40 colleges said that they had no full-time staff dedicated to undocumented student services and just 11 campuses said had a full-time staff member whose time was allocated to supporting these students.

“Though California leads the way in serving this vulnerable population, survey results show there is still much to be done,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley. “It is vital that the California Community Colleges continue to support undocumented students are we are committed to implementing the recommendations and promising practices featured in the Dreamers Project Report.”

Chancellor Eloy Oakley

Six main categories of challenges related to serving undocumented students surfaced through the research, with each accompanied by a specific recommendation to address the barrier, including strengthening communication around resources and supports available for Dreamers, providing more sufficient institutional support and campus-wide trainings, expansion of student retention strategies and more.

The challenges include:
1.    Inadequate ability to outreach to undocumented students
2.    Insufficient institutional support and campus-wide training
3.    Need for dedicated stakeholders, staff and space at each campus
4.    Need for better access to financial support
5.    Need for increased student engagement and direct services to increase student retention
6.    Need for definitive guidance from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office

According to officials from the Chancellor’s Office, a 14-member advisory group was established to facilitate the project and analyze survey and regional meeting data, with the group including a college president, two community college student advocates, a Dream Resource Center consultant, two Dream Resource coordinators, an UndocuAlly trainer, members of the Chancellor’s Office governmental relations team, an immigrant rights activist, an immigration legal expert and the Director of Higher Education from Immigrants Rising.

“In the spirit of the Vision for Success, our Dreamers Advisory Group aims to address equity and ensure our colleges support everyone we serve. In order to actualize that Vision, we need to be committed to understanding and supporting the success of undocumented students,” said Dr. Tammeil Gilkerson, President of Laney College and a member of the Dreamers Advisory Group. “The data-driven recommendations and promising practices from the Dreamers Project Report provide concrete steps we can implement to become true allies with our undocumented students as they strive to achieve their educational and career goals.”

Report findings are being disseminated across the system via list-servs, hosted webinars, conference presentations and through college presidents who have been encouraged to engage their Board of Trustees and campus stakeholders around implementation.

The report will be presented to the Board of Governors of California’s Community Colleges on May 20, 2019.

This article first appeared in Diverse: Issues In Higher Education.

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