Undocumented and Unwanted: Attending College against the Odds

Undocumented and Unwanted: Attending College against the Odds

Undocumented and Unwanted: Attending College against the Odds

Undocumented and Unwanted: Attending College against the Odds

Synopsis

Undocumented immigrant postsecondary students face myriad challenges while pursuing a college education. Garcia focuses on the experiences of nine students attending a public comprehensive postsecondary institution in California to assess how different types of social capital help students pursue a college education. She demonstrates how students were wholly or partly reliant on various types of social capital accessed before and during matriculation. Three of the major findings are: institutional agents were instrumental in developing students' social capital, family- and peer-based social capital was important to students' matriculation, and perceptions about immigration status affected students' matriculation and social capital development.

Excerpt

Undocumented immigrant postsecondary students face myriad challenges while pursuing a college education. These overwhelmingly first-generation, low-income students lose their guarantee to a public education ensured by the 1982 Plyler v. Doe decision when they complete secondary school. They are foreclosed from traditional financial resources including federal, state, and institutional financial aid, scholarships, and employment opportunities. Students also are often under-prepared for the rigors of college-level coursework and may question the feasibility of pursuing a postsecondary degree with no legal protections. For those students who do manage to matriculate, few studies have been conducted to describe and better understand their experiences.

Framed by social capital theory, this qualitative study focused on the experiences of nine students attending a public comprehensive postsecondary institution in California. The study relied on data collected via interviews, observations, and document analysis throughout the 2009–2010 academic year to assess how different types of social capital helped students pursue a college education. This study demonstrated how students were wholly or partly reliant on various types of social capital accessed before and during matriculation. Three of the major findings included: (a) institutional agents were instrumental in developing students’ social capital, (b) family- and peer-based social capital was important to students’ matriculation, and (c) perceptions about immigration status affected students’ matriculation and social capital development.

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