Whitman to cover application fee for undocumented students

Last fall, Whitman became the first liberal arts school in the nation to issue a statement in support of undocumented students. This fall, the college is putting action behind its words by providing funding for undocumented Whitman students applying for deferral of deportation under the Department of Homeland Security’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

DACA grants a two-year deferral of deportation to young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have completed education or military service requirements. The DACA program was announced by President Obama on June 15, 2012 with specific details and eligibility information released on Aug. 15, 2012. Among the requirements was a $465 application fee, which cannot be waived except in extreme circumstances.

Dean of Students Chuck Cleveland said that Whitman decided to cover this application fee for undocumented students at the college, as well as provide support through the application process.

“We felt that we had to walk the talk,” he said, referring to the college’s Statement on Undocumented Students.

Because undocumented immigrants can’t work legally, paying the application fee is often a challenge.

“The students that I talked to couldn’t really afford to pay the fee,” said Cleveland.

In addition to financial assistance, the college has provided support for students going through the application process.

Cleveland said his office contacted the five undocumented students that they were aware of in early September and offered to meet with them about the DACA process. Whitman provided transportation for two students to attend a meeting held on Sept. 22 by the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project, which had lawyers present to explain the DACA forms.

Of these two students, one has applied, and the other has not told the college her plans. A third is planning to apply at a later date, while the other two students went through the process without assistance from Whitman.

The idea to provide college support for fees came from two professors, who approached Provost and Dean of Faculty Timothy Kaufman-Osborn.

“This seemed like a really logical way in which a little bit of college resources could have a really big impact on students’ lives,” said Aaron Bobrow-Strain, associate professor of politics, who was one of these professors. “The administration was quite receptive to it. I was impressed by the response I got.”

The college was able to secure funding from an anonymous donor to cover the cost for students choosing to apply, meaning that no tuition money is being used for this purpose.

“I am very grateful to the donor who cares so deeply about those students who need the financial assistance necessary to participate in this program and who so richly deserve a Whitman College education,” said Kaufman-Osborn in an email.

Cleveland said that deferrals of deportation will allow undocumented students to complete their educations.

“We’re going to have a group of students that will be able to legally work and reside in this country … some barriers will be removed for them to obtain their degree,” he said.

Supporting these students may also help Whitman in the long run.

“Down the road, we hope they will become very successful alums,” said Cleveland.

Kaufman-Osborn agreed.

“Whitman will continue to benefit from the valuable contributions that our undocumented students can and do make to our campus and community,” he said.




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