Undocumented students will see increased support with the impending creation of a Dream coordinator position, according to Vice President of Student Affairs Luoluo Hong.
“We are excited to be able to establish this important new role,” Hong said in an email. “Reporting to the dean of students, the position will support the holistic college success needs, from application to graduation, of AB 540, undocumented and (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students.”
As Dream centers are opening at several universities around California, the new position is SF State’s first step toward accommodating the 644 undocumented students on campus, according to Jessica Iñiguez, president of Improving Dreams, Equity, Access and Success, a student organization for undocumented students.
The population of undocumented students at SF State is quickly growing, according to Iñiguez, who said there has been a 600 percent increase in undocumented students at SF State since 2009.
“Only 5 to 10 (percent) of undocumented high school seniors continue to higher education, and an even lower percentage actually graduate college,” Iñiguez said in an email. “A Dream coordinator would identify the needs of undocumented students at SF State and understand the types of barriers we face in higher education.”
The California Dream Act, established in 2011, increased access to financial aid for undocumented students. In order to qualify, students must meet the requirements of AB 540, a law that provides in-state tuition benefits for undocumented students, according to a document from California Student Aid Commission and Educators for Fair Consideration.
Because undocumented students are often afraid to disclose their status to others, according to Iñiguez, a Dream coordinator could be a helpful resource for them.
“Currently, the AB 540 advisors are also financial aid counselors, and although they do their very best to advocate and work with undocumented students, their positions are limited, and they don’t have the capacity to focus on undocumented students’ issues as much as is needed,” Iñiguez said. “(Hiring a Dream coordinator) would mean that the University recognizes the presence of undocumented students on campus and the obstacles we face in higher education, that they understand that our needs are different from the rest of the students.”
According to Hong, SF State only recently received the approval to move forward with hiring a Dream coordinator.
“We are in the early stages of planning,” Hong said. “We are in the process of developing the job description in collaboration with students and the staff who support our Dreamer students. Tentatively, we plan to implement a search in time to hire a new person sometime in Spring 2016.”
CSU Fullerton, one of the four CSUs that have established a support resource center for undocumented students, developed the Titan Dreamers Resources Center in April 2014, according to the Daily Titan. The center provides a number of services for undocumented students, including academic, emotional and financial support.
“We make sure we aren’t perpetuating the myth that only Latinos are undocumented students, and we work to educate and create a safe space for our students,” said CSU Fullerton Dream Center graduate assistant Mark Hao. “I think it would definitely be a great opportunity for SF State. Having a dedicated person to be there helping and supporting the undocumented students while being a part of that process will be incredible.”
Iñiguez acknowledges the need for a separate, safe space for undocumented students and hopes the new position would open the possibility for it.
“Eventually, and very soon after hiring a Dream coordinator, I would hope that the University establishes a space or resource center specifically for undocumented students,” Iñiguez said. “This is important because if there isn’t a space somewhere (on campus) that is easily identifiable, undocumented students may not feel inclined to visit the coordinator’s office, seek out information, or feel safe disclosing their status.”
The center for undocumented students would most likely be something similar to what other schools call Dream Centers, said Iñiguez.
“There wouldn’t be an IDEAS center per say,” Iñiguez said. “IDEAS is the student (organization) on campus for undocumented students. The center would be an AB 540, Undocumented Student Resource Center or Dream Center.”
Starting Nov. 16, IDEAS will host UndocuWeek, a week dedicated to bringing awareness to undocumented students at SF State. Several events, such as a student mixer, a film screening and workshops, will be hosted during the week, according to IDEAS Facebook event page.