FDR’s “Lost Population”: Undocumented Students


For high school seniors, their last year is mostly filled with thoughts about prom, senior trip, graduation, and going to college. This is different for undocumented students. The thoughts they have are revolving around whether or not they will be able to go to college and if they will be able to afford it. For others, college is not an option, because they might need to begin working as soon as they graduate. But most of the time, the problem is within the DOE and the lack of resources that are being provided to make sure these students succeed and are not left behind.

Undocumented Students High School Graduation & College Enrollment Rates

According to the research conducted by the Migration Policy Institute, 100,000 undocumented students graduate from high school every year. New York has 4,000 undocumented students graduating each year making up 4% of the total number.

Number of Undocumented Students Who Graduate High School

Out of these 100,000 students, only 5 to 10 percent actually attend college according to the College Board. Why are the numbers so low? Why is it that out of  100,000 only 5-10% actually go to college? The problem is not the students or the families, the problem is the school college counselors, teachers, and principal throughout the DOE.

It is not uncommon for students to find out they are undocumented during their senior year of high school. Most of the time, their guidance counselor or college counselor is the first to find out about this, and many of them throughout the DOE, do not have the training to help students navigate this problem. When undocumented students disclosed their status they get responses like “So what are you going to do?” – “Can you even go to college?” – “You can’t go to college, you don’t have money.” These are actual questions undocumented students are asked by counselors. Guidance counselor’s job is to help guide the students, but they cannot do this, because they are not adequately trained on these issues. This makes undocumented students end up having to look for their own resources, because they are not being provided for them. Why do undocumented students have to struggle with finding resources, when it is the DOE’s job to help every single student succeed. The answer is simple, the education system does not care enough. 

It is a known fact that many schools are helping their students during this stressful time. Prospect Heights International High School is one of the many schools providing resources. They have a Dream Team, which is a club in school where undocumented students and allies can find a safe space in school, they find community and most importantly they can find resources. One of the things this Dream Team has is its own scholarship. The students, with the support of their club advisor and their principal, conduct bake sales to raise funds for their scholarship for undocumented students. This helps them with their first semester in college. They are able to use that money for books, food, or transportation. Being a part of the Dream Team Network comes with a lot of resources, some of them are getting help for college applications, scholarships, and internships- regardless of immigration status.

Get Real Resources

If you are an undocumented student at FDR, you can email [email protected] or [email protected] . You ask any questions regarding the college application process and the New York Dream Act, which gives in-state financial aid to undocumented students. You can also follow the organizations social media (@nysylc) to stay up to date with the opportunities that they provide or visit their website (nysylc.org) and sign up for their newsletter.