Entering college can be an intimidating process for anyone. For non-traditional students, especially undocumented immigrants, the process can be exceptionally stressful.
Helping students, including those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, is one of Salt Lake Community College’s missions. The school provides multiple resources to guide such non-traditional students during their journeys to access higher education and make them feel welcome during their time at SLCC.
Hyrum Robb, an SLCC admissions advisor and college recruiter, says the school’s purpose is to build a community.
“We are not here to turn anyone away,” he says.
One of the strategies the admissions department has implemented is to identify the barriers that might stop non-traditional students from entering college.
Financial concerns often force students to drop out and prevent prospective students from accessing education entirely. As a result, the school helps motivate potential students to consider more affordable and less time-consuming skill-based alternatives, like the School of Applied Technology.
SLCC also provides private and institutional scholarships and tuition waivers. Utah House Bill 144, passed in 2002, allows undocumented students who attended a Utah high school and graduated eligible to receive in-state tuition on a special waiver.
Students, however, don’t always realize they qualify and fail to apply, Robb says, noting the opportunities are often missed.
“I’ve had students contact me and asked me about information about scholarships,” he recalls, “but it’s too late, and the opportunity has already passed.”
Robb, however, encourages students to seek out and apply for other scholarship opportunities.
“I still do recommend students to apply,” he says. “Based on the criteria, they might not qualify for one, but there might be another one available.”
SLCC has also partnered with the University of Utah to help students transfer and continue their educations.
As an example of their commitment to help non-traditional students, SLCC recently inaugurated the “Dream Center” at the West Valley Center. The Dream Center is a place for students to seek orientation and information on the transfer opportunities for DACA recipients and undocumented students.
Brenda Santoyo, a graduate assistant from the U of U, oversees the project and provides advice to those interested in transferring.
The Dream Center originally started as an idea from the SLCC club, Latinos in Action (now known as LUCHA), and has been five years in the making.
Santoyo understands undocumented and DACA students might be intimidated by the process but encourages them to not be.
“All information is private and safe, especially when it comes to education,” she says. “Something as simple as sending an email is a start.”