In Limbo: Bringing Stability to Undocumented Students Enrolled at Institutions of Higher Education in Central Texas
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This research takes an institutional and administrative approach to identifying availability of resources for undocumented college students in the state of Texas, as well as offering helpful guidelines for those employed in higher education. Relationships with school counselors and teachers are particularly important sources of information and guidance for undocumented college students’ career planning and academic achievement (De Leon 2005; Suárez-Orozco et al. 2015, 450). College admissions counselors and recruiters, financial aid, counseling centers, and academic advisors are the “institutional agents” who interact and assist most often by being on the “front lines”. Therefore, employees at institutions of higher education are in a position to extend support to this population. To what extent are these “institutional agents” aware of the needs of undocumented college students? What do they perceive are the challenges facing undocumented college students? This study evaluates how and to what degree to which the institutions are effectively assisting undocumented and DACAmented college students. The objective of this research is to identify the complexity of undocumented college students’ challenges, and explore how to help them succeed in higher education. Within the context of restrictive immigration policies, my goal is to understand experiences of undocumented college students through an administrative perspective. This exploration provides insight into possible short-term solutions that other institutions across the state, or even the nation can adopt. Student-led initiatives, the roles of faculty and staff, the Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, and the most recent executive order of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) serve as key components in the discussion of undocumented college students in higher education. This study further examines what resources are available in the areas of financial aid, career services, support groups or networks, and legal assistance. Undocumented college students are in limbo, or stuck in a state of transition. They are often strong-willed individuals who were raised in the United States and feel as American as their U.S.-born peers, but face exclusion outside of academia because of their legal status which is an “ascribed characteristic given by the state” (Martínez-Calderón 2010, 25). Navigation and negotiation of the complexities of higher education inherently are daunting and stressful for any student, but especially for students who do not have residency or citizenship. They constantly negotiate if, when, how much, and to whom they disclose information about their immigration status. They do not qualify for federal financial aid or the ability to drive or work. Accessibility to resources for undocumented college students in Central Texas has a tremendous impact on retention and graduation.