Oberlin College has approved a policy that allows admissions officers in the College of Arts and Sciences and Conservatory of Music to consider applications for admission from undocumented prospective students to be part of the domestic pool of applications. The policy reads:
Oberlin College considers undocumented students as domestic candidates for admission. Students who qualify for “deferred action,” and have achieved DACA status (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), are particularly encouraged to apply.
“We have always welcomed applications from undocumented students,” says Debra Chermonte, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid. “But because they are not U.S. citizens, we had, like most colleges, required them to apply as international students. In practice, though, admissions officers considered such applicants holistically within the scope of the domestic pool. This policy aligns our current practices with the public language we use to describe Oberlin’s policy with respect to undocumented students.”
The federal government’s definition of an undocumented person is a foreign national who either entered the United States without proper authorization and documents, or who entered legally as a nonimmigrant and has since violated the terms of the status upon entering the U.S. or has overstayed the time limits of the original status.
Yet most college-bound undocumented students have lived in the United States most of their lives, having been brought to the country at a young age by their parents. They are fluent in English, have attended elementary, middle, and high school in the United States, and have excelled academically. “They are much the same in preparation and intention as any other college-bound student in the United States,” says mathematics professor Susan Colley, chair of the General Faculty Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid. “An undocumented student applying as an international student feels like a miscategorization to admissions officers,” says Chermonte.
While the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, Education for Alien Minors) would provide some means for certain undocumented students to attend college (or enlist in the military) and a path to citizenship, the proposed legislation has not yet been passed. As a temporary measure, President Obama signed a memo in 2012 allowing for “deferred action for childhood arrivals” (DACA) for certain undocumented young people who came to the United States as children and who have pursued education or military service here. Read the eligibility requirements for DACA status.
The significance of DACA status—and the reasons Oberlin’s new policy particularly encourages those who have DACA status to apply for admission—is that it allows undocumented students to enjoy a more typical college experience, including safe travel within and beyond the United States and eligibility for employment; however DACA status is not required for admission to Oberlin, says Chermonte.
Growing interest within the Oberlin community about educational opportunities for undocumented students, coupled with support from the senior staff and the Board of Trustees, led members of the admissions staff and the General Faculty Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid to begin working to codify Oberlin’s policy, says Chermonte. The policy statement was unanimously approved by the full committee on February 19, 2014, and was presented to the General Faculty Council on February 26, 2014.
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