College Board guide for undocumented students released

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Undocumented immigrant students face a number of significant obstacles on the path to college. The College Board is seeking to make that process a little easier with its recently released resource guide for undocumented students planning for college.

The resource guide was released just weeks before President Obama issued an executive order that will enable undocumented youth to delay deportation and apply for work permits.

The College Board designed its resource guide to be continuously updated so that new information, such as the application process that will open up in the wake of Obama’s new policy, can be incorporated into later editions.

“This information changes very rapidly, so the intent was to update it,” said the guide’s author, Alejandra Rincón.

The current guide provides general information on scholarships, student support organizations, and links to other national legal and financial guides.

The guide also provides lists of state-specific resources for 11 out of the 14 states that have passed in-state tuition laws for undocumented students.

It does not include state-specific information for Pennsylvania, where an in-state tuition act is currently in the House Education committee. The bill would offer in-state tuition rates based on graduation from high schools in the commonwealth, not dependent on citizenship.

Patrice Berry, a post-secondary specialist in the Student Success Center at University City High School, emphasized the importance of accessible information for undocumented students preparing for college.

“There is a wealth of information out there,” explained Berry, “and a dearth of experts who are able to distribute the information as wide as the reach needs to be.”

“There isn’t a bridge between the students and the scholarships that are available,” agreed Darwin Maldonado, a 22-year-old undocumented immigrant who graduated from South Philadelphia High School and is now attending the Community College of Philadelphia.

Maldonado also emphasized the importance of mentorship for undocumented students seeking to attend college.

“When we get out of high school, there is no one to tell you it’s worth it. We need mentorship from someone who has done it.”

Maldonado cited JUNTOS, an immigrant community-led advocacy organization in Philadelphia, and DreamActivist Pennsylvania as two groups that can connect undocumented students to resources that will help them prepare for college.

Berry also added that the Philadelphia College Prep Roundtable is a useful resource that helped her to learn more about supporting undocumented students on the path to college.

“The city should continue to create spaces like these through which information can not only be distributed, but practitioners can get the opportunity to ask specific questions to support students,” said Berry in an email.

Finally, she emphasized the importance of undocumented students feeling comfortable enough to be open about their status so they can get the assistance they need from school counselors.

“We often find out about a student’s status late enough in the college admissions process to prevent us from providing as much assistance as we have the potential to,” explained Berry.

The College Board has openly advocated to support undocumented students since its release of a 2009 report titled ”Young Lives on Hold: The College Dreams of Undocumented Students.”

In June 2011, Thomas Rudin, senior vice president for advocacy at the College Board, testified in support of the federal-level DREAM Act before the Senate.

“Our commitment to these students and their college and career development stems from knowing the potential they have to contribute to advancing our competitiveness in the global economy,” testified Rudin.