Community colleges serve the largest number of undocumented students of any of California’s higher education systems, but continue to receive the lowest per student funding levels.
Now that Governor Gavin Newsom has signed AB 1645 into law, California Community Colleges are required to expand resources for undocumented immigrant students. However, there is one major problem with this law: the lack of funding to implement.
This was confirmed by Vice Chancellor of Governmental Relations for the California Community College system Laura Metune: “AB 1645 did not include a state appropriation. However, the bill authorizes a college campus to accept on behalf of the state any gift, bequest, devises or donation that supports the creation and operation of Dream Resource Centers.”
“We need to stand with our Dreamers and give them the educational support they need,” said Assemblywoman Rubio. “As a former undocumented student, I know all too well the struggles that Dreamers are facing. AB 1645 will give these students a greater opportunity to overcome obstacles and have a successful educational experience.”
There are 115 colleges affected by the new law but only 19 have staff designated to serving the undocumented students. The law requires each college to designate a staff member as a Dream Resource Liaison. The liaisons will be responsible for assisting undocumented students in accessing financial aid and other resources.
Metune told the California Globe, “The Chancellor’s Office supports the work of our colleges to hire liaisons and establish centers on each campus for which funding was not provided. Community colleges serve the largest number of undocumented students of any of California’s higher education systems, but continue to receive the lowest per student funding levels. Addressing funding adequacy will be key to ensuring colleges can meaningfully provide services to all students, including our undocumented students.
The system has approximately 50,000 to 70,000 undocumented students according to a recently published report by the California Community Colleges Foundation, “California Community Colleges Dreamers Project Strengthening Institutional Practices To Support Undocumented Student Success.”
All 23 California State University campuses, are also encouraged to have campuses operate a Dream Resource Centers that would provide a variety of support services, including counseling and legal help, according to Ed Source.
Officials from the CSU system expect to have the funds for each of its campuses beginning in the 2020-21 academic year however, officials with the community college system say their campuses are going to struggle.
The cost to implement the program for all 119 community colleges could reach $3 million. Schools will need to pull from existing budgets or seek donations to fulfill the requirement, according to Vice Chancellor Laura Metune.
The role of the liaisons would be to assist undocumented students in accessing all available financial aid, legal services, internships and other academic opportunities. The Dream Resource Centers could include counseling in areas like academic, mental health and financial aid. They could also provide other services such as legal clinics and professional development.
The University of California’s nine undergraduate campuses and one graduate campus already provide the liaisons and resource centers.
In a report titled the California Dreamers Project, funded by the James Irvine Foundation in partnership with Immigrants Rising and the Foundation for California Community Colleges, student data within California colleges and universities have additional layers of protections beyond the standard Family Educational Rights and Privacy Regulations, which indicate that student data cannot be released without the student’s permission, except in very specific circumstances. “Guidance and Model Policies to Assist California’s Colleges and Universities in Responding to Immigration Issues” increased FERPA protections by providing specific guidelines each campus must take to ensure student data cannot be used for immigration enforcement purposes.
In other words, AB 1645 will create a system within the education system staffed with trained liaisons who will protect the undocumented students immigration status legal or not legal.
Rosa Rodriguez, a Public Health Policy major at Irvine Valley College was quoted in a report by Assemblywoman Rubio: “It may not seem like a big deal but when you’re undocumented, telling the wrong person your status can cost you the life you built in this country.”
“I am well aware of all of the barriers facing our State’s Dreamers and I applaud Governor Newsom for his support on this important piece of legislation,” Metune said.
Earlier this year California Community Colleges reported that only 35 of the system’s 115 community colleges have Dream Resource Centers.
The existing centers are supported by a combination of the colleges’ own funding as well as external dollars. The California Campus Catalyst Fund is an initiative that supports undocumented students and helps fund centers at colleges including Chabot College in Alameda County, Oxnard College in Ventura County and San Diego Mesa College. The complete list of colleges the fund supports can be viewed HERE.
But for the majority of community colleges that don’t already have centers or dedicated staff, “implementation will vary,” said Metune. “We hope, and will continue to encourage, colleges to identify existing funds or leverage philanthropic dollars to accomplish this work.”
The reality is that colleges are being mandated to implement a new policy with no new resources.
The full California Dreamers Project report can be read HERE.