The aim of the Undocumented Student Program is to provide a well-rounded suite of services that enable undocumented students to overcome difficulties, and even more, to experience inclusion, community, equality, and fulfillment.
Toward full equalityInitially, we focused on addressing the immediate obstacles preventing undocumented students from completing a UC Berkeley education. Over time and with increased funding, we’ve expanded the program’s approach. Today, the USP includes a range of services intended to ease the transition to university, help build a supportive community, and reduce stress related to financial, personal, immigration, and academic challenges.
We believe that when undocumented students are able to meet their key emotional and physical needs, they are better able to thrive, on campus and beyond.
Our Undocumented Student Program is growingIn the USP’s first semester in 2012, the program served 112 students who self-identified as undocumented. Most of our current USP cohort is made up of first-year university students and transfer students from colleges.
In the spring 2020 semester, the program served 440 undergraduate students. By 2020, we expect the number of students we serve will double the 2016 numbers.
Expanding support to graduate studentsThe needs and opportunities for graduate students differ from those of undergraduates. USP provides Immigration Legal Support, Mental Health support and (limitedly) financial assistance to graduate students.
For example, while access to loans is restrictive for all undocumented students, options for grad students can be even more limited: many of them have aged out of deferred action and therefore can’t work; and many are from out of state and consequently are not eligible for state-based funding.
USP has partnered with the Office for Graduate Diversity to better provide support to our undocumented graduate students. In January 2019, the Office for Graduate Diversity was able to hire at the first Graduate Student Specialist, a half-time position that focused on supporting undocumented graduate students more directly in the areas of need. In November 2020, the position was increased to full time.
A full spectrum of servicesIn 2010, a student and faculty task force produced a list of recommendations for supporting undocumented students on the UC Berkeley campus. One of their key findings was that while various services were available, not all students knew they existed or how to access them. Today, our interconnected program and dedicated Resource Center make it easier for students to get the support they need.
Our program areas function as an interconnected system, where each of our services both supports, and is supported by, all of the others.