Scholarships aid ‘dreamers’

A former owner of the Washington Post, a Democratic fundraiser and a former Republican Cabinet secretary have launched a college scholarship fund for undocumented students who came to the U.S. as children. TheDream.US will award full-tuition college scholarships to 1,000 “dreamers” in the next academic year, reports the Washington Post.

“Our mission is work-related programs at low cost but relatively high quality,” said Donald Graham, the retired publisher. The fund will focus on students who want to study nursing, teaching, computers and business.

Students will be able to attend pre-selected colleges — including several community colleges and one online school — in New York, Texas, Florida and the District of Columbia. Those who start at community college can reapply for scholarship aid once they complete an associate degree, said Candy Marshall, president of TheDream.US.

Some of the approved colleges have low on-time graduation rates. At Bronx Community College in New York, 8 percent of full-time students graduated in three years, while 13.4 percent transferred to four-year institutions.

Graham predicted the scholarship winners will do better, because they’re “extremely motivated.” In addition, the pre-approved colleges have promised to provide an academic counselor for the “dreamers.”

“We’re not just about getting kids into college, we’re about getting students out of college,” Marshall said. “You could do this and just give them $25,000 to go to the college of their choice. But we don’t want to put students in situations where we’ve started them in college and they’re working three or four jobs to try to pay for the rest, and they don’t succeed.”

Among the first 28 dreamers is Araceli Mendez, 21, who came to the United States with her parents from Mexico when she was 7. She was graduated from high school in Brooklyn in 2010 and admitted to college, but couldn’t afford tuition. She’s worked for three years cleaning homes to save money for college. With a scholarship from TheDream.US, Mendez has started classes at Borough of Manhattan Community College. She wants to be a pediatric nurse or pediatrician.

Immigrants learn English, job skills

Maryland community colleges have added English as a Second Language and GED programs to serve a growing number of immigrant students.

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At Prince George’s Community College’s (PGCC) International Education Center, health care careers is the most popular program for immigrant students. But many need to improve their English. “PGCC and four other community colleges in Maryland created an accelerated program—modeled on Washington state’s I-Best program—that provides language and skills training,” reports Community College Times.

In addition to Latinos, PGCC draws students from Africa and other countries.

About 25 percent of the nation’s 6.5 million degree-seeking community college students were foreign born in 2004-05, according to a U.S. Education Department report​.

California may send adult ed to college

California Gov. Jerry Brown wants to shift adult education from K-12 districts to community colleges, but the Legislature may not go alone, reports the Oakland Tribune.

The plan would give community colleges an additional $300 million to set up similar adult education programs, including high school diploma or equivalency courses, vocational education and citizenship classes. College leaders note the amount is less than half of what the state spent on adult schools five years ago, and that colleges have no experience running some of these programs.

“We’ve never been in the business of doing GED (the high school diploma equivalent), nor have we done anything with citizenship,” said Ron Galatolo, chancellor of the San Mateo County Community College District.

Under the governor’s proposal, school districts would continue to get the same funding, but could shift the money to other uses. In Oakland, which has a 27 percent dropout rate, the district plans to close its GED programs if it isn’t required to serve adult students.

. . .  the nonpartisan state Legislative Analyst’s Office cites “major problems” with the plan and urges the Legislature to instead invest the money in a special fund for adult education, managed by K-12 school districts.

. . . For years, community colleges have also offered remedial courses, including English as a second language, but have generally targeted higher-skilled students, while adult schools — often in courses set up at a school or community center — have worked with school dropouts and recent immigrants and refugees, including those unable to read or write.

Proponents argue adult education students could move more easily to job training and college classes, if they started at community colleges.  Colleges could contract with existing adult ed programs rather than design their own classes.

‘Dream’ student invited to State of the Union

Alan Aleman, a Mexico-born “Dream” student was among Michelle Obama’s guests for the State of the Union address. Aleman, a student at the College of Southern Nevada, was one of the first in Nevada to sign up for deferred action for undocumented youth, which includes a renewable work permit. Aleman hopes to join the Air Force and become a doctor.

Persevering — and passing

Eliana Osborn has a hard-working, competent, front-row student who’s taking the English class for the fifth time, she writes on The Two-Year Track.

 She’s learned from her many failures and seems to be doing things right on Attempt 5. I respect that. I’m not cutting her any breaks, but she doesn’t need them. She’s learned about herself and how to be a good student. I asked her why she keeps coming and trying after so many disappointing semesters.

“I have to do this,” she told me with steely eyes. “I don’t have a choice. I have to get an education for my family.”

Teaching on the U.S.-Mexico border, she has many low-income students who speak English as a second language. “As I read their papers and learn about their lives, I am impressed again and again by their perseverance,” Osborn writes.

Dreaming Big

In Dreaming Big, the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education (CCCIE) recommends ways for community colleges to serve a new wave of young immigrants. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, announced by the Obama administration in June, will let undocumented immigrants who arrived as children stay in the U.S. and work legally, if they meet educational and other requirements. Many are expected to enroll in community colleges.

The report deals with increasing college access, extending financial aid to make college affordable, supporting college readiness and success, offering alternatives for adult learners and improving college retention and completion.

Many ‘dreamers’ will need GED, college access

Young illegal immigrants began applying this week for two-year stays on deportation and renewable work permits. But high school dropouts aren’t eligible — unless they’re enrolled in classes leading to a GED or a job. That could mean a big demand for community college classes.

Applicants must have been younger than 31 when the administration policy was announced on June 15, brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 and in the country for five years or more. Applicants must also be high school graduates or GED holders or be enrolled in school. Those convicted of a “serious” crime are not eligible.

Up to 1.76 million people are eligible or will be when they turn 15, estimates the Migration Policy Institute.

College students represent just a small share of young illegal immigrants, Roberto Gonzales, a University of Chicago sociology professor, told the Chronicle of Higher Education. Some 350,000 high school drop-outs could qualify by enrolling in a program before filing an application.

One student who plans to apply is Karla Campos, 25, who came from Mexico about 16 years ago and is working on her GED. Her 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter dream of attending college, and she used to worry that she wouldn’t be able to afford to help them do so—several employers turned her away because she was not authorized to work.

Now that she is eligible for a work permit, Ms. Campos is confident that she can make higher education a reality for her children. She would now like to go to college, too, though it’s too soon to say what her major would be.

Enrollment in a GED program or an “education, literacy, or career training program (including vocational training) that is designed to lead to placement in postsecondary education, job training, or employment” would qualify non-graduates, according to federal guidelines. Dropouts can choose federal or state-funded programs or programs “administered by providers of demonstrated effectiveness, such as institutions of higher education, including community colleges, and certain community-based organizations.”

If dropouts enroll in community college, get a deferral and then fail to complete the program — a likely outcome for poorly prepared students — could they enroll again in two years when their deferral runs out?  The deferrals are based on Obama administration policy, not law, so it’s hard to know.


Amnesty doesn’t require college, military service

President Obama’s quasi-amnesty for young illegal immigrants doesn’t require college attendance or military service, according to Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano’s memo. Applicants who came illegally by age 16 and are 30 or younger must pass a background check showing no felonies or multiple misdemeanors. In addition, the applicant must be: “currently in school, has graduated from high school, has obtained a general education development certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran of  the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the  United States.” Those who qualify will be able to get two-year work permits renewable indefinitely.

“In school” seems to refer to high school. Would dropouts qualify if they enroll in GED or basic skills classes at a community college?  Do they have to pass their classes?

The military provision is a bit puzzling: Illegal immigrants aren’t eligible to serve in the military. However, a few use fraudulent papers to enlist. The order doesn’t say whether those who qualify for temporary work permits will be allowed to serve in the military. If so, would their service qualify them for citizenship?  I can’t imagine denying citizenship to military veterans.

In May, speaking at the commencement of Miami Dade College‘s commencement ceremonies, President Obama reaffirmed his support for the Dream Act, which provides a path to citizenship for young immigrants who complete two years of college or serve in the military in the six years after qualifying for conditional legal status. The executive order doesn’t promise citizenship.

Obama issues ‘Dream’ order

Congress has refused to pass the Dream Act, which would offer a path to citizenship to young illegal immigrants who enroll in college or serve in the military. But today President Obama ordered a halt to deportations for people under 30 who arrived illegally before the age of 16 and lived in the U.S. for five years. Immigrants must be high school graduates or GED holders with no criminal record, be enrolled in postsecondary education or serve in the military. (Presumably college graduates would be eligible.) Immigrants who qualify will be able to apply for work permits.

While young immigrants won’t get a path to legal status and citizenship, they’ll be able to apply for a two-year “deferred action” that removes the threat of deportation for up to two years, with repeated extensions. “This is not immunity, it is not amnesty,” said Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary. “It is an exercise of discretion.”

The order will cover about 800,000 people, the administration estimates. Counting children under 18 with undocumented status, it will affect up to 1.4 million immigrants, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. It could persuade young Latinos to stay in high school or, at least, to earn a GED. Since many immigrants enroll in community college — and those who are’t in school can easily do so — the order could lead to an enrollment surge at community colleges.

Republican pushes STARS instead of DREAM

Republican alternative to the DREAM Act creates a path to citizenship for children brought illegally to the U.S. — if they complete a bachelor’s degree. But the STARS (Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status) Act, introduced by Florida Rep. David Rivera, doesn’t have broad Republican support.

(The bill) would grant alien conditional nonimmigrant status to those who have been in the U.S. at least five years at the time of the bill’s enactment, were brought to the U.S. younger than 16 years old, have earned a high school diploma or GED, have been admitted to an accredited four-year college, and are of “good moral character.”

Upon graduation, a student could apply for a five-year visa renewal, followed by applying for permanent residency and eventually citizenship.

Students who fail to graduate would lose their conditional status.

A separate Rivera bill, the ARMS (Adjusted Residency for Military Service) Act creates a path to citizenship through military service.

By contrast, the DREAM Act requires two years of college — graduation is not required — or two years of military service. That’s a much lower bar.

Most immigrant students who go to college start at a community college. Those who are undocumented aren’t eligible for state or federal aid. Few go on to complete a bachelor’s degree. Of course, STARS might motivate more students to seek a four-year degree, but it ignores other productive paths. Military service would provide another option, but not everyone is healthy enough to serve.