Our Higher Education Access research addresses the ability of members of society to attend and to receive fair treatment at institutions of higher education.
We have several research projects currently underway at the Forum. Throughout the past decade, and especially in the past few years, immigration reform has grown increasingly visible on the national stage. Politicians have grappled with one another on whether or not to pass the DREAM Act, employers struggle to find laborers, and students seek to continue their education – each of these situations is complicated when a person is undocumented.
Our most recently completed research project examined state policies towards financial aid for undocumented students. With the generous support of the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation, we have been researching institutional policies towards undocumented students. We found a variety of responses between states, and we identified a variety of institutional responses. We have completed the research and are in the process of disseminating it through electronic and physical channels in the months ahead.
Most Recent Research
In September, 2011, the National Forum completed the report (funded by TG) “Reconciling Federal, State and Institutional Policies Determining Educational Access For Undocumented Students: Implications for Professional Practice” which reported on our investigation of the ways in which colleges and universities make decisions regarding educational access for immigrant and undocumented students. With a final draft in hand, we submitted the report to the research advisory groups of NASFAA and AACROA, incorporating their suggestions where we felt appropriate. That report is now available on our website: http://thenationalforum.org/sign-up-to-receive-national-forum-reports-and-publications/
The context for this study is well documented. Currently, there are millions of individuals whose citizenship has not been established living in the United States – with an estimated 1.2 million of whom are school children. The number of these persons who are at an age where we would expect them to be considering or enrolled in college is in the hundreds of thousands. Yet, their documentation circumstances as well as their low-income and first generation status make difficult their path to higher education.
To our knowledge, the study outlined in this report represents the first systematic nationwide examination of institutional policies targeting undocumented students. The report offers a comprehensive description of the characteristics of the undocumented population and their underrepresentation in higher education. It summarizes the current state policies that regulate the access to education for undocumented students and examines a range of factors that might influence institutional decisions regarding undocumented students. It offers a novel theoretical framework to understand how institutions navigate the complexity of this issue, and presents a sophisticated analysis of original survey data, collected from individuals in the vortex of this issue, about institutional policies on undocumented students. Most importantly, the report offers insights and recommendations to educators and practitioners on how to increase their ability to serve undocumented students better and facilitate their access to higher education.
What We’re Researching Now
Currently, the National Forum is in the process of building the uLEAD Network, a communications hub for institutional leaders either anticipating or experiencing heavy opposition from the media or public as a result of supporting undocumented students with supportive statements, creating inclusive policies, or advocating for the DREAM Act. And though the uLEAD Network will serve as a communications hub that will effectively collect up-to-date information concerning state policies and crisis communication projections, the component of the uLEAD Network that works to protect institutional leaders under attack operates off of the premise of social capital. Using the partners and allies established at numerous national convenings from the past few years, and anticipating future allies and partners, the uLEAD Network will leverage relationships with individuals at various associations (associations related to higher education and the media) to marshal support for institutional leaders, and ultimately help change the “message” being communicated from the media to the public at large.
We are conducting research to help inform our work in designing and constructing the uLEAD Network. We are interested in how institutional leaders working at the “boundary points” of colleges and universities (financial aid directors, admissions directors, communications/public affairs professionals, etc.) operate in scenarios involving undocumented students.
Noe Ortega, a senior Research Associate at the National Forum, was published in The Journal of Hispanic Higher Education in 2011 for his article “The Role of Higher Education Associations in Shaping Policy that Connects Immigration to Educational Opportunity: A Social Capital Framework.”
This particular study utilized social capital theory to examine the collective agency available to national higher education associations and better understand the power of the collectivity to influence policy. The analysis drew on a specific issue, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, and investigated letters and statements submitted by associations to members of Congress in support of this policy between 2006 and 2009. The findings suggested that characteristics unique to this community enhance their ability to influence educational policy.
For more information on other past publications, please see our page Forum Publications.
Past research initiatives
Past research from all of our projects can be found in the Past Projects link in the footer.