Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Fostering an Inclusive Environment

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Fostering an Inclusive Environment

Article excerpt

Leaders at Cal Poly Pomona aim to create an inclusive environment for undocumented students, first by creating an AB 540 liaison.

Although undocumented students who meet specific residency criteria have been eligible to receive in-state tuition in California since the passage of Assembly Bill 540 in 2001, many were being asked to pay international student rates by university administrators and staff who did not know the law existed.

So, in the fall of 2006, Mery Hernandez, EOP outreach and admissions counselor for California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona), invited undocumented students to an AB 540 workshop led by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. About 30 students attended the event, which Hernandez calls the first step towards gaining support from the university for AB 540 students.

According to "The College & Financial Aid Guide for: AB540 Undocumented Immigrant Students," published by the Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis at the University of Southern California, qualifying AB 540 students must meet all of the following criteria: attendance at a California high school for three or more years followed by graduation or receipt of General Education Development (GED), registration at or current enrollment in an institution of higher education in California, a filed affidavit, as required by individual institutions, stating that they will apply for legal residency as soon as possible.

Cecilia Santiago, coordinator for the César E. Chávez Center for Higher Education at Cal Poly Pomona, estimates that anywhere from 300 to 500 students attending the university fall under AB 540, although the exact number is unknown because the university keeps the identity of these students confidential.

Although AB 540 offers students in-state rates that are considerably lower than outof-state rates - in the CSU system, for example, out-of-state students pay $12,420 in fees compared to $2,864 for in-state students per year - they are still ineligible to receive state or federal financial aid.

Hernández, an alumna of Cal Poly Pomona, was familiar with the financial challenges AB 540 students face and decided to help them.

"Throughout the whole time I was here as a student, and maybe previous to that, there wasn't anyone who was paying attention to this particular group of students," says Hernández.

Soon after the first workshop at Cal Poly Pomona, students began organizing themselves and created a student group known as Demanda Estudiantil Para Igualdad Educatiónal (DEPIE) - Student Demand for Equity in Education in English. …

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