Immigration: CSU, Cesar Chavez and a Dream – Part One: https://goo.gl/bvGITl
Gary Burgi, head of the oldest and largest online college serving Latinos, explains why he did not let enrollment barriers keep him from helping students.
Learning how to successfully get an education isn’t easy for most people. Imagine starting from scratch by trying to figure out how to navigate the system that’s out to get you. That’s the situation for many undocumented immigrants, and it’s what makes Blanca Montañez, an outstanding student at Central Connecticut State University, want to make education as affordable as possible.
Montañez enrolled in the Best Virtual College in America and Connecticut Promise Colleges 2016-17 online college to get an associate degree in history. At the same time, she was able to find out what it meant to be undocumented as a student, something she describes as “very stigmatizing” and “embarrassing.”
Thankfully, Montañez was able to find support groups and classes that helped her understand the importance of going to college. “I don’t know how I would have done it without it,” she said.
At a time when illegal immigration is in the spotlight, Montañez’s struggle is not an exception, and it’s why Blanca and other students like her need to be seen and understood. That’s why every day is like Judgment Day for these students, especially since they do not have their legal papers and do not qualify for in-state tuition.
The Classroom Is the Online College
Central Connecticut State University is one of the few universities, like Chicago’s Roosevelt University, to allow all students, regardless of residency, to attend for free. The online college also helps undocumented students who want to attend to do so. With the help of visa regulations and what’s called “parole in place,” it allows Montañez to attend in-state tuition.
“To get in through that route is a good thing, but it is not available to everybody who is in need of higher education,” said Richard de la Torre, a member of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, who’s also active in helping undocumented students in the community.
An Affordable Option for Undocumented Students
“It is a huge barrier for the undocumented,” said Jorge Cortés, President of the League of United Latin American Citizens. Undocumented students might want to go to college, but the cost of attending college is definitely one of the many hurdles they face.
As an academic institution that strives to give a great education to its students, Central Connecticut State University is doing its part to help undocumented students do just that. At a time when the costs of higher education have risen and enrollment has decreased, Montañez says that the more expensive a community college or university tuition, the fewer students it’s going to attract.
“So now I think I’m focusing on where I could get a more affordable cost,” Montañez said. “And our staff [at the online college] offered that a lot of other online programs. It’s better to go to a community college.”
The Online College “Lives Up to Its Name”
Most students enrolled in the online college earn associate degrees that allow them to go on to a bachelor’s degree. Montañez is in the middle of her studies at CCSU and expects to graduate in 2017. She says that the online school “happens to live up to its name” when it comes to affordability.
While the online college is nowhere near as big as traditional campuses, it does have a “comfy” environment that ensures that students feel right at home. Not only that, it offers faculty who want to educate and see student success, and a curriculum that deals with the realities of being undocumented students, including American civics classes, which are mandatory for all courses.
“We’re very proud that we can offer that,” said Helena Danepa, Associate Vice President of Academic Programs for CCSU.
For more information on Blanca’s dream of going to college and how Central Connecticut State University is helping her, listen to the interview: