New NIU task force to examine ways to support learning experiences of undocumented students

Photo of international flagsSupporting undocumented student success on college campuses has emerged as a complex issue of increasing importance.

This growing population of college students faces unique challenges each day – challenges such as the struggle to fund their education in the absence of federal or state financial aid including work study, the stigma of not having a Social Security card or driver’s license and the ever-looming threat that they or their family will face deportation.

Despite these barriers, undocumented students are successful, both in and out of the classroom on campuses across the nation, including NIU.

Understanding the importance of the recruitment, retention and success of undocumented students, NIU President John G. Peters has commissioned the Presidential Task Force for the Support of Undocumented Students. NIU is viewed by many of its peers as a progressive institution that has already taken important steps to champion the need of this important population.

The development of this task force is a continuation of this commitment.

“Supporting undocumented students has become a critical issue of importance for NIU and all of higher education,” Peters said. “I believe this task force will provide recommendations that reflect progressive and contemporary approaches to supporting undocumented students. Most importantly, this task force aligns with NIU’s commitment to access for a broad spectrum of students and creating a climate of respect for all.”

John G. Peters and Kelly Wesener Michael
John G. Peters and Kelly Wesener Michael

Approximately 65,000 high school students graduate each year without the ability to fully participate in U.S. society. These graduates came to the United States, most often as children of parents who entered the country looking for a better way of life but without authorization.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), national legislation approved in June 2012, is targeted at assisting these young people. Eligible youth are those who arrived in the United States before the age of 16, have lived in the country continuously for a minimum of five years and are high school graduates or those who have obtained GEDs.

DACA-qualified immigrants who successfully attain defer action can apply for a two-year reprieve from deportation, as well as the request work permits and Social Security numbers. This legislation does not provide access for financial aid.

The Presidential Task Force for the Support of Undocumented Students will:

  • guide institutional efforts to educate and train NIU’s faculty and staff to effectively respond to the challenges and needs of undocumented students;
  • position the university to influence relevant state and national legislation;
  • provide support and guidance to those students seeking deferred action; and
  • ensure that institutional policies and procedures are rooted in the spirit of access and inclusion as well as reflecting best practices in higher education.

Kelly Wesener Michael, acting vice president for Student Affairs & Enrollment Management and chair of the task force, discussed the importance of students and their commitment to supporting their peers who have yet to attain citizenship. “Students played a key role in calling attention to the needs of our undocumented students,” she said, “and will continue to have a vital role in these important conversations.”

The task force will begin its work immediately with the goal of submitting final recommendations for presidential review in August.

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