Reconciling Federal, State, and Institutional Policies Determining Educational Access for Immigrant and Undocumented Students:
Implications for Professional Practice

In 2007, the National Forum, in partnership with a number of key stakeholders across the country, launched a national effort to focus attention on educational opportunities for immigrant and undocumented students. Employing the University of Michigan’s visibility in the area of educational diversity and its location in the Midwest, the initiative could situate immigration as a national issue inherently connected to the principle of expanding access to college for all capable students. The initiative uses a distinct change strategy which involves building networks and partnerships that engage multiple levels of policymakers (institutional, state, and national) in working towards the common goal of building “public will” in support of improving educational opportunity for immigrants as a fundamental civil rights issue. With the continuous support of major constituency organizations, namely the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) and the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE), the hope was that the National Forum’s work would build momentum for the passage of the DREAM Act.

Given our wealth of talented faculty and graduate students, the immigration initiative has taken on conducting research to better understand how higher education leadership contributes to access and success for Latino, immigrant, and undocumented students. With the support of the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation (TG), the immigration initiative used both quantitative and qualitative methods to complete its first major national study of how institutions interpret laws that constrain access for undocumented immigrant students. This research has resulted in strong partnerships with both the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) and has revealed the great potential in working with higher education associations. Our partners have been eager to disseminate this scholarly work in ways that are digestible and useful to practitioners and the public. This direction is playing a major role in continuing to attract exceptional graduate students to play key roles in the National Forum’s immigration work. Our national meetings have also provided a platform for the National Forum to share its research with the growing number of partners in our network.