Last Wednesday, University of California President Janet Napolitano promised $8.4 million in annual funding to support undocumented students through 2019.
The money is an extension of the $5 million Napolitano dedicated for undocumented UC students when she came into office in 2013. The funding was set to expire in June, but new annual funds will continue support for financial aid as well as the UC Undocumented Legal Services Center at UC Davis. The uncertainty of this funding leading up to last week’s UC Board of Regents meeting prompted protests pressuring Napolitano to renew the funding.
While the total allocation, which will be over five times more than what Napolitano promised in 2013, is promising, the expiration date shows that progress still needs to be made. Setting expiration dates only serves to create uncertainty among students whose futures are already held in tenuous balance due to patchwork governmental policies.
Napolitano must institutionalize funding for undocumented students to dispel any notion that the UC’s support for undocumented students is temporary.
For many undocumented students, this funding is essential. Undocumented students are ineligible for federal loans, unable to qualify for work study and, if ineligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, are often unable to get work permits.
In addition, funding for textbooks and other relevant services in the form of fellowships are essential to supporting students throughout their education.
Although Napolitano has made strides by committing a large portion of discretionary funding to the undocumented community, it’s not enough. Institutionalizing the same amount of money may currently be impossible, but ensuring a smaller fund with no expiration date will exemplify a valuable and necessary commitment to the undocumented students community.
With regular funding, many of the services for these students could develop in a way that meaningfully and sustainably supports undocumented students navigating the legal system and higher education.
Services like the UC Undocumented Legal Services Center desperately need to be expanded and require funding from the UC to do so. The limited lawyers available at the center are far from sufficient, but with stable funding, future plans to hire additional staffers could be implemented.
The allocation of these funds temporarily assuages fears that funding for resources such as the UC Undocumented Legal Services Center and Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act loans would not be renewed, but fails to ultimately address the larger problem at hand.