Challenges and service needs of undocumented Mexican undergraduate students : students' voices and administrators' perspectives
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Undocumented students as an identified student population at United States institutions of higher education tend to be a "hidden" group of students. Since 2001, when individual states began passing measures to provide undocumented students with in-state tuition benefits, the undocumented college student population across the United States has sharply increased. Because little empirical research has been conducted on this student population, the needs of undocumented students in higher education are not well known. This qualitative study identified the challenges faced by undocumented Mexican undergraduate students and their need for services after matriculation to a selective four-year institution of higher education. The study also explored the perceptions held by university administrators and the extent to which they understood the challenges and service needs of the undocumented student population. Based on the interview data collected from both undocumented students and university administrators, identified challenges of undocumented college students included: (a) struggling to succeed, (b) feeling the pressure of being a role model, (c) coping with frustration and uncertainty, (d) managing life as a "hidden" member of society, (e) missing out on opportunities, (f) perceptions of self as compared to other students, and (g) complications faced in utilizing campus services. Additionally, three service needs were identified, the need for: (a) accessible information, (b) designated personnel, and (c) legal services. The findings also revealed that university administrators, for the most part, knew very little about the undocumented student population on their campus. The examination of all the data led to a set of recommendations that identified ways in which higher education institutions could better serve this group of students. This study is one of the few studies in existence that has examined the experiences of undocumented students in higher education. Furthermore, no studies have been conducted on the perceptions that university administrators have about the challenges and service needs of the undocumented college students. Thus, this study expands the knowledge about what is known about undocumented students' experiences on a college campus and the extent to which university administrators understand the population.