Groundbreaking study on undocumented students in Jesuit higher education

“At the heart of the Immigrant Student National Position Paper is a call for improved institutional practices at Jesuit institutions in the United States to help these young people flourish on campus and off,” said Project Leader Rev. Richard Ryscavage, S.J., director of the Center for Faith and Public Life and professor of sociology. “Ultimately, this project presents a way of proceeding on this area of immigration that informs and helps shape the national educational and political discourse. Our findings revealed that a pathway to citizenship will not solve all of the challenges these students face. Additional policies that address the needs of the students as well as their families are critical.”

Federal law does not prohibit the admission of undocumented students to public universities or colleges; states may admit or bar undocumented students from enrolling as a matter of policy or through legislation. And while 14 states (including Connecticut) allow these students to pay in-state tuition, others specifically deny them this lower-cost option.

“If the whole Jesuit system of higher education were to become fully engaged in the challenges and issues of undocumented students, perhaps private, public, and Catholic colleges and universities could be emboldened to do so as well,” Fr. Ryscavage emphasized.

Project recommendations include support for reform of immigration law to include a path to citizenship for undocumented students; a modification of admissions materials to eliminate the need for a Social Security number; clear identification of aid to undocumented students; and a database of alumni who were undocumented who can assist undocumented students with their careers. Researchers also recommended training university staff on the needs of these students. Project Manager Melissa Quan, associate director of the Center for Faith and Public Life and director of Service Learning said, “We see these individuals’ promise and want to help them reach their full human potential. It is our responsibility.”

Top photo: Guadalupe ’16

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