Each year, UC Berkeley runs a Summer Bridge program to help first-year students enhance their ability to access and leverage campus resources. The USP encourages undocumented students to attend, and provides financial support to those in the most need in order to reduce barriers to participation.

Boosting academics, building community

The Summer Bridge is a six-week, two-course academic and residential immersion program designed to help first-year students from under-resourced communities prepare for the academic rigors of UC Berkeley. In addition to classes, the program helps students build community with their peers, and develop a network of support with faculty, graduate students, college advisors, and academic counselors.

Because the Summer Bridge program is so valuable to undocumented students, both the USP and UC Berkeley contribute financial support to enable them to participate.

The transition from high school to UC Berkeley can be paralyzing. Everything, how you study, which classes you take, the environment, is a new ballgame. Summer Bridge helped me adapt to UC Berkeley’s rigor and lifestyle.

Funding removes barriers to participation

Each year, 400 UC Berkeley students are invited to attend Summer Bridge. Of these, 45 percent are required to participate in the program. The other 55 percent are invited because they belong to one of following groups:

  • Member of a low-income family
  • Part of a historically underrepresented ethnic/racial group
  • First-generation college students

While undocumented students often fall into at least two of these categories, in the past the high cost of the program was, for many, a barrier to participation.

UC Berkeley provides a grant to offset program tuition and fees (about $5,800). Still, the additional $2,559 required for room and board, books, and transportation can present an insurmountable financial barrier, especially since undocumented students are not eligible for the $1,500 Pell grant that other students use to help with this expense. Therefore, the USP has secured private donors who cover these costs for undocumented students.

Encouragement increases attendance

Each year, the UC Berkeley Admissions Office sends us the list of 400 incoming students eligible for the Summer Bridge. Our USP staff then conduct proactive outreach to students who have self-identified as undocumented, and encourage them to attend. This active outreach has resulted in the highest turnout of participants among all the support programs.

In 2012, before the USP conducted outreach, only two undocumented students attended the program. With the USP’s involvement, an average of 30 to 36 undocumented students have attended the Summer Bridge each year since 2013.

Considerations for Getting Started

  • Does your institution currently run any type of immersion program designed to help entering freshmen prepare for the academic rigors of attending your institution? Can and does the program include undocumented students?
  • What are some ways your institution can provide undocumented students with the financial support they need to participate? Are there scholarships or school grants available to help cover tuition and fees?
  • Are there any private donors who would be interested in supporting these efforts or who could be tapped to provide funding to enable more undocumented students to attend the program?