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CCSF looks to expand support for undocumented students

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CCSF’s Board of Trustees will vote today on a plan to allocate $671,367 to resources for undocumented students, including academic counselors and fellowships for students. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

In the wake of its pledge to support students regardless of their immigration status, City College of San Francisco will have the opportunity today to significantly bolster resources and services for undocumented students with more than half a million dollars in funding.

CCSF’s Board of Trustees is slated to vote on the Undocumented Student Success Program, which would allocate $671,367 in college funds for new resources, including caseworkers and counselors. The investment would also expand existing services targeting the college’s undocumented student population.

“As a sanctuary college within a sanctuary city, we are taking decisive action to help the ‘Dreamers’ keep their dreams alive,” said Trudy Walton, CCSF’s Vice Chancellor for Student Development.

Along with CCSF’s Assembly Bill 540 Taskforce — comprised of faculty, staff and administrator volunteers — and VIDA (Voices of Immigrants Demonstrating Achievement), a student-run resource center serving undocumented students, Walton helped pave the way for the proposal to increase support for “all undocumented students” at the college.

Assembly Bill 540, signed into law in 2001, allows eligible undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at public universities and colleges, and the California Dream Act allows eligible undocumented students to apply for financial aid through the state.

The additional funding would allow for the hire of two academic counselors dedicated to serving undocumented students, onsite social workers and personal counselors providing wrap-around services, support staff, fellowship stipends for undocumented students and professional development for CCSF staff serving them, among other things.

The proposal also urges CCSF to form a partnership with a pro bono immigration lawyer and seeks to expand services at VIDA, which currently runs with volunteer support and at limited capacity.

If approved, the program could be implemented as soon as next fall.

CCSF’s current resources are “not adequate given the dramatic increase of undocumented students at CCSF over the past 10 years,” according to the proposal. The program also comes amid anti-immigrant policy changes at the federal level.

Despite recent threats to federal policies protecting undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children, the in-state tuition benefits remain in place. But confusion or fear often deter undocumented students from seeking an education in The City.

“Right after the election, we had students that were visibly shaken up — afraid for their families, their parents,” said Leticia Silva, a counselor with CCSF’s Latino Services Network. “We had students that thought they would have to dropout of school.”

Silva said CCSF’s new chancellor, Mark Rocha, was immediately “on board.”

In the fall, Rocha requested “further investigation” into how the college could best support some of its most vulnerable students.

CCSF Trustee Tom Temprano called the proposal, which ultimately aims to increase enrollment, retention and college completion rates among undocumented students, “an investment that the college can make and should make.”

Alejandro Jimenez, the coordinator at VIDA, said that while the center currently refers students to immigration or support services throughout The City, the additional funding could allow the college to provide those services in-house, and across its multiple campuses.

“Continuously and in various pockets of the district, undocumented students will hit a wall — a front desk that says, ‘No, you are not eligible for this,’” he said. “In reality they [are], but because we don’t have a fully funded resource center, a lot of students miss out on key information [or] financial aid.”

Approving the program would align the college with a stance taken by the state to “provide many forms of support to immigrant communities,” including “access to higher education for undocumented youth,” in response to federal immigration policies, Jimenez said.

“It shows that the district is really committed to providing undocumented youth, folks that grew up here and have a lot of potential … with the opportunity to [fulfill] that potential,” he said.

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