Immigration: Undocumented Students in Higher Ed

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A Study Funded by the Ford Foundation

In 2010, Fairfield University, Santa Clara University, and Loyola University Chicago launched a 2-year study to understand legal and social context, attitudes and social current practices in Jesuit institutions of higher education in the United States regarding undocumented students. It is estimated that only 5-10% of the 65,000 undocumented students that graduate from an American high school each year are able to enter post-secondary education.

Why the Research?

The project seeks to provide presidential leadership in higher education regarding undocumented students, and critically analyze the issues and challenges to bring immigration to the forefront of discussion around policy and access.

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.



Related links

Leadership Team Members | Strangers as Neighbors white paper