Getting Into College as an Undocumented Immigrant

Working to pay for school himself, Joseph Ramirez struggles to fit in as a commuter student.

By Kate McGeeSeptember 11, 2015 8:30 am, ,

Even the most academically prepared college-bound student can face a lot of challenges getting to college. That’s especially true for poor students.

Those challenges also increase for students who are undocumented — and are the first in their families to go to college.

KUT Austin’s Kate McGee followed one such student over the summer as he prepared to take that next step.

The odds have always been stacked against Joseph Ramirez. He is an English language learner student who moved to the United States from Mexico when he was three. He was homeless and bounced around a half dozen elementary schools before his family settled in Austin’s Dove Springs neighborhood. Statistically, in Central Texas, Hispanic students from low-income families are the least likely to enroll in college of any student group.

But he worked hard in school and eventually attended Austin’s Liberal Arts and Science Academy, one of the best public high schools in the country. Joseph chose to attend St. Edward’s University on a large academic scholarship, but paying for college continues to be a concern. He needs to find a part-time job to help make his monthly tuition payments. Even though he has DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), his undocumented status is a constant concern for him.

His counselor, Daniel Jackson, says he worries Joseph will overwork himself and not spend enough time studying. Joseph is a commuter student. Jackson says the biggest obstacle Joseph must overcome this year is finding his place on campus.

Listen to the full story in the audio player above.