Megann Horstead | For The Bugle
Many will remember the rhetoric used by now President Donald Trump on the campaign trail. Though some praised his way with words and his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border, others questioned his leadership ability. In the wake of Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, both supporters and opponents can agree that immigration reform is looming.
The University of St. Francis is one higher education institution set to support students who had Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals under the new federal administration.
University of St. Francis Director of Freshman Admissions Eric Ruiz said though it’s best to stay out of politics, the institution intends to remain committed to its values.
“We’ve always taken the stance whoever our president is we’re going to take care of our students however we can,” he said. “Whether it was the old or the new president, the university supports students and that includes anybody wishing or wanting to get a college degree.”
Ruiz does training to educate university officials and others on how to support students who had DACA, and is currently working on a training seminar to achieve this aim.
“Little by little, we’re trying to make them more aware,” he said. “We are supportive.”
Ruiz said it’s unclear to what extent Trump may value the contributions of people who had DACA.
“I don’t know, people say certain things,” he said. “According to the job, people may say and do different things. We’ve seen that with other presidents. That’s why we’ve taken the stance that we’re going to stick to our values.”
The University of St. Francis is a privately funded institution in which two percent of the campus community is comprised of DACA students. Total undergraduate, graduate and doctoral enrollment at the institution is set at 3,902 for the 2016-17 academic year.
“DACA will help us to determine what options we have to support them,” Ruiz said. “We would need to counsel them to make sure they’re guided in the right direction.”
Ruiz said though DACA helps individuals in obtaining more options, the university can only help students in reaching their potential to a point. To serve as a fully functional educational institution, the effort to support students who had DACA stops at the 75th percentile, at which point one seeks employment, he said.
The university does not receive any funding through DACA.
But there are other forms of aid provided by the university, Ruiz said.
“Our scholarships can go to anybody based on merit,” he said. “It has nothing to do with status… The reason we like the DACA program is because they can graduate and have that under their belt. If the accounting student has DACA, they can work… Having DACA means that you’re able to work. That helps us to help them go to college. You can go to school and get the job. If they don’t have DACA, they can get the degree, the diploma, (but) that’s where it stops. We’re not able to help them find that career.”
To help further support students who had DACA, university staff meets face-to-face with families interested in enrolling in classes and walks them through the admission and financial aid processes. There is also a Latino-based club on campus for students to get to know one another.
“Our DACA students have the best retention rates,” Ruiz said. “That’s what I hear from a lot of institutions.”
Within the last eight to nine years, the university noted that two to three students hadn’t graduated.
The hope, according to Ruiz, is that undocumented students can feel supported while studying at the University of St. Francis.
“We hope,” he said. “That’s our goal.