This election has left us all with more questions than answers. And the fate of undocumented students is one of them.
President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which provides two-year work permits and protection from deportation to undocumented students who meet certain requirements.
The University has stated it will protect its undocumented student population, but many questions have arisen regarding how it intends to do so. The University of California is responsible for deciding what will happen to vulnerable students before federal policies change for the worse, and the first step is for it to address the future of its work-study program for undocumented students.
Many undocumented UCLA students with DACA currently receive up to $5,000 of institutional financial aid under the President’s Work-Study program. While most of the University’s work-study programs involve federal funding, this work-study program is maintained solely by its own money.
For many undocumented students, keeping the cost of college as low as possible is critical. While many undocumented students pay in-state tuition and receive other forms of financial aid such as the Cal Grant, these are usually insufficient to cover the full cost of attendance – especially on campuses like UCLA, where the cost of living is high.
Undocumented students’ parents may not be able to provide adequate financial support, and paying off student loans is especially difficult if students don’t have a work permit to secure a legal, well-paying job. One survey of undocumented students found that 77 percent of respondents had moderate to extreme concerns about financing their education.
In other words, a repeal of DACA and the work-study program could threaten these undocumented students’ ability to pay for their education.
As such, the UC needs to find a way to make up for the loss of financial aid for those in the work-study program. And it can do so by either maintaining the current work-study scheme or providing an additional grant to undocumented students in the program.
Officials seem to understand this. In an email statement, UC spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez said the University will look at all angles to protect and provide commitment to the success of undocumented students.
But there’s still a lot of work to do. Despite the UC President Janet Napolitano’s best efforts to assuage their fears, many undocumented students are still suspicious of her commitment to protect their rights – especially given her record of deporting millions of people during her tenure as Secretary of Homeland Security. And the other regents are no less guilty, with their refusal to provide a consistent amount of financial support for undocumented students’ legal services and instead resorting to precariously wrestling out the money from each year’s budget.
The work-study program is an opportune chance for the UC to put its money where its mouth is. And though Trump doesn’t take office until January, the UC needs to square with the problem in the here and now.