A few year’s ago, the Annual Jesuit Association of Student Personnel Administrators (JASPA) Conference featured award-winning journalist Sonia Nazario as the keynote speaker. Nazario is the author of Enrique’s Journey, a poignant true story of her adventure replicating the journey of a Honduran boy who traverses Mexico with the hopes of reuniting with his mother in Laredo. Beyond the amazing story, Nazario’s talk was extremely relevant given that year’s JASPA conference was held in Phoenix, Arizona. As is Jesuit tradition, JASPA turned the conflicted emotions toward the host location into an opportunity to discuss the relevancy of undocumented students flooding into higher education institutions.
It has become an increasingly challenging discussion for colleges and universities to navigate the political landmine that is acceptance and institutional aid for undocumented students looking to go into US schools. On one side, you have individuals who proclaim the students were not the ones who came here illegally and question the ethics of punishing them for their parent’s choices. On the other hand, citizens pay taxes which lead to federal funding for higher education so many believe that money should not go to children of individuals who do not pay into those taxes. It is not an easy decision to make.
Many public institutions are bound to state and federal regulations while some private institutions have more flexibility when it comes to providing financial aid to undocumented students. In both types of institutions some generous donors have come forth to donate money specifically for these students. Until something is figured out at the national level, whether it is the DREAM Act or something else, this will continue to be a tough road to travel. Let’s hope, as we move forward, we always remember to keep the student first and foremost in our mind.
I encourage universities who are willing to share any policies, procedures, or scholarships they have created to address the issue of access and aid for undocumented schools to share those with us in the comments section of this blog post.