What Is a Dream Center?
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- Dream centers support undocumented students throughout their college experience.
- Undocumented students account for about 2% of college students nationwide.
- Financial aid support and immigration assistance are among the services offered at dream centers.
- Dream centers also support mixed-status students and their families.
Approximately 2% of U.S. college students are undocumented, according to the Presidents' Alliance 2021 report. That's 427,000 college students who experience unique challenges while pursuing a higher degree. Dream centers support undocumented students throughout college, providing important pathways for applications, funding, and postgraduate success.
Being undocumented can mean that educational aspirations — like attending college, taking out student loans, and applying for internships — can be more difficult to achieve. Some undocumented students, namely Dreamers, may benefit from supportive government programs.
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However, the DACA program that supports Dreamers no longer accepts applicants, leaving many undocumented students without the necessary support to seek higher education. Dream Centers provide undocumented students with essential support across all areas of the college experience.
Why Dream Centers Matter
Dream centers create space for undocumented students to receive support for their academic pursuits. Undocumented students can face unique challenges applying to and paying for college. Finding internships and employment opportunities can be difficult for undocumented students as well.
Dream centers provide havens for undocumented students. Creating a space of belonging on college campuses is critical for all student groups. Dream centers offer this welcoming space for undocumented students.
For high school and college students, dream centers provide access to higher education opportunities. They offer guidance for students seeking to apply to college and assist with finding the right funding options for students.
Financial aid assistance, like scholarships for undocumented students, can be a critical resource. Finding the right financial support for undocumented students can require unique searches and connections.
Seeking financial or academic support on campus can feel isolating for some. Acknowledging your citizenship status when seeking these supports can also be worrisome. Entering a space specifically designed to support and uplift undocumented students can relieve anxiety or worry about the process.
A recent dream center opening at Santa Barbara City College highlights the support these resource centers can offer. In addition to academic-related support, students have access to legal and immigration assistance. Mixed-status students — those with at least one undocumented family member — can also receive support at dream centers.
The creation of a central resource center allows colleges to provide direct support to their undocumented student populations. And these dream centers provide important spaces where students feel seen and supported throughout their higher education experiences.
Dream Center Support Services
Below are some of the most common support services for undocumented students offered at dream centers. Some centers may offer other resources and services not listed. Be sure to check in with specific dream centers for additional information.
Navigating the college application process can be overwhelming. Understanding the rules across different states, colleges, and universities can be tricky and is often better done with support. Counselors who are adept in supporting undocumented students through the college application process may offer helpful insights for navigating obstacles.
Financial Aid Assistance
Since federal funding is not available to undocumented students, receiving financial assistance can be a decisive step in pursuing a college degree. Dream centers offer guidance in locating financial aid through scholarships, grants, and other resources.
Internships and Fellowships
Some employers ask about a student's citizenship status in the internship application. Undocumented status does not always mean the internship or fellowship is unavailable; however, it can be an off-putting way to begin the application process. Understanding the landscape of internship and fellowship opportunities from the perspective of an undocumented applicant can ease these challenges and provide a pathway to gaining relevant career experience.
Career and Employment Guidance
Employers that hire undocumented students can be hard to find. Depending on your career path, finding supportive companies can take some work. The guidance and experience offered at dream centers can make a huge difference in starting your post-college career in a great place.