HB3438: A Step in the Right Direction Toward Formalizing Institutional Support for Undocumented Students
Allocating targeted support for underserved students has been shown to have a positive impact on student persistence and college completion rates.
BY Jonathan Lopez, PCC Communications and Operations Manager
Institutions of higher education in Illinois continue to be confronted with the question of how to best serve the growing number of undocumented and DACA-eligible students on campus. Undocumented students contribute immensely to Illinois’ institutions of higher education and to the communities where they live. It is critical that removing barriers they face while pursuing a degree is part of statewide efforts to increase overall college completion rates. The college completion goals of undocumented students are also part of the vital efforts to achieve an educated workforce in Illinois.
The higher education community has long been a critical, albeit informal ally of undocumented students, with counselors, academic advisors, and faculty leading the way. In Illinois, school counselors and academic advisors are often the first line of support for the approximately 18,000 undocumented students enrolled in the state’s postsecondary institutions, and progress is being made to formalize support of undocumented students in attaining a college degree. Signed into law in 2020, the Retention of Illinois Students and Equity (RISE) Act created the opportunity for eligible undocumented students who are disqualified from federal financial aid to apply for state financial aid. However, as the challenges for undocumented students in college continue, so has the work for advocates and allies to improve their experience. The latest chapter of their efforts has resulted in the passage of House Bill 3438 (HB3438).
What is HB3438?
On May 28, 2021, HB3438, better known as the Undocumented Student Liaison and Undocumented Student Resource Center bill, passed both houses of the 102nd Illinois General Assembly. The legislation will require public universities and community colleges in Illinois to designate an employee as an “Undocumented Student Resource Liaison,” as well as encourage institutions to establish an Undocumented Student Resource Center on campus. The goal of the legislation is to streamline how colleges’ liaisons and resource centers help undocumented students in navigating financial aid challenges, academic and career counseling, retention and matriculation support services, and mental health counseling.
This bill is now headed to the governor’s desk for signing and its implementation could be key to the success of undocumented students in Illinois. Currently, there are limited formal roles or institutional practices in place to provide this student population tailored support. Ensuring that public colleges and universities achieve compliance with HB3438 will help eliminate barriers for undocumented students to earn a college degree. The Illinois Dream Fund (ILDF), an organization dedicated to creating equitable access to education for undocumented immigrants, is slated to carry out institutional trainings for compliance with HB3438 in partnership with the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) and the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB). It will also create and update an institutional liaisons directory and support colleges’ liaisons with locating and disseminating student resources.
HB3438 is, at last, creating an opportunity for public institutions of higher education to make their support of undocumented students a formal proclamation and to set up formal institutional supports needed for them to succeed. Allocating targeted support for underserved students has been shown to have a positive impact on student persistence and college completion rates. The Partnership for College Completion has long maintained, as part of its core values, that all students can succeed when given the right opportunities, tools, and support. The implementation of HB3438 is a step in the right direction for creating the tools and support undocumented students need in their journey to college completion.
Learn more about the Partnership for College Completion today!