From Fluffy to Firm, and Back

By Juliette de Wolfe*

For several years before entering the PhD program in Anthropology and Education at Teachers College, I worked in an elementary school as a special education teacher.  I’ve often since referred to this as the “fluffy” world I lived in.   We started sentences with “I’m sorry, but…,” “I don’t know if this makes any sense, but…,” and “Tell me if I’m wrong, but…”, and I say “we” because I did it too.  As a woman, working in a profession dominated by women, communication was indirect, hesitant, and even nervous.  I had become accustomed to this and had a rude awakening when I began my doctoral studies.

I realized about two weeks into the two-year long colloquium at Teachers College that no one in the room cared about what I felt.  They were interested in what I thought, and how I came upon that thought, and what evidence I could use to back it up.  I would take the N train back to my tiny apartment in Queens, NY each Thursday evening after class had finished, licking my wounds and thinking about how nasty, cold, and un-fluffy the experience had been.  There is no feeling in that room, I thought – just stone-cold performance and judgment.  But as we all must in our lives, I adapted.  I began to understand the dance, and to even tap along to the beat once in a while.  By the end of the second semester I was less shy in colloquium and enjoyed the conversations for the lingering stimulation they provided.  On my subway rides home, I eventually spent less time licking wounds, and more time thinking about what my fellow students had presented, and how they had challenged my ideas.

The big break-through for me came in my second year of colloquium.  A male student was presenting his plans for summer fieldwork and I saw major gaps in his methodology.  It seemed as though the day-to-day activities of his fieldwork had not yet been thought through, and I found this extremely problematic.  I raised my hand to ask him, in essence, what he actually planned to do in the field everyday.  As I formulated my question though, I felt my own hesitancy.  My words were flip floppy, and I said things such as “I’m sure you’ve already figured this out, but…,” and “I’m sure it’ll be great, but…,” when it fact I meant the exact opposite.  I meant, “I don’t think you have figured this out at all.  I think you need to come up with a better plan.  And at this point, I don’t think it’ll be great.  I think it’ll be a disaster.”  After I finished stammering through my weak interrogation, a female professor seated next to me, leaned over and told me never to apologize for my questions.  She said that as women we tend to do this, but we shouldn’t.  We have every right to ask assertive questions and demand answers.  I think about that advice often.

Three years later, and with a PhD in hand, I’ve returned to the “fluffy” world.  I’m back in an elementary school setting where (generally) women sit in meetings and still apologize for their questions, their answers, their space in the room.  But I don’t do this anymore, and it makes me stand out.  Just a few weeks ago I was in an English/Language Arts (ELA) planning meeting, where we were discussing quarterly standards.  I posed a question regarding measurement of one of the standards to the ELA coach.  She responded by talking around my question for several minutes floundering through her answer.  This is a smart woman who knows the ELA standards inside and out, but her answer did not reflect her knowledge.  As she wrapped up her answer, her volume began to peter out and she repeated a couple of her points unnecessarily.  She then ended by saying, “I’m not sure I’ve answered your question, but…” and trailed off.  I responded simply, “No, you have not answered it, but I’d be happy to repeat my question.”  She blushed and the attention of the other teachers seated in little tiny chairs around the kidney bean shaped table volleyed back and forth between the coach and me.  This time, I rephrased the question, asking for a yes or no answer, followed by an example of how we would or would not effectively assess said standard.  The coach provided a clear and thoughtful answer, and the conversation moved on to the next item of business.  In that moment though, I realized that the firmness I tried so hard to develop in my PhD program was not practiced in this new space, and perhaps was not even welcome.

I now walk a fine line between demanding real answers to my real questions, and fitting in with the otherwise “fluffy” talk that permeates the culture of elementary school communication.  I doubt I will ever be able to fully return to that place of hesitancy where I was ashamed of my ideas and my space in the room, and yet I also need to be respectful of my colleagues’ feelings and ways of expressing themselves.  Moving forward, I hope that I’m able to provide to my colleagues the professional instruction and personal kindness that my professor showed me that day in colloquium.  I recognize that my colleagues may continue to apologize for their thoughts and ideas, but I see a profound value in reassuring them that there is no need to shirk away from their comments, and that this does our important work as educators no good.  And that is something for which I will never apologize.

*Juliette de Wolfe is a graduate of the PhD programs in Anthropology at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Conceptualizing Educative Practices

By Michael Scroggins*

I believe that the school, as an institution, should simplify existing social life; should reduce it, as it were, to an embryonic form. – John Dewey, My Pedagogical Creed

In a series of works beginning in the 1970’s, Lawrence Cremin reworked Dewey’s utopian vision of the school as a model cooperative community, by taking it, to borrow a phrase from Joseph Dunne, back to the rough ground of everyday life. Partially in response to Illich’s withering broadsides against schooling, Cremin put forth an ecological theory of education positing that the school was but one of many institutions which educate. Instead of “deschooling society” as Illich argued for, we should turn the problem over, look to the broad range of educative practices occurring in the course of ordinary life, and treat the school as but one of many institutions which inevitably educate.

I would like to suggest here that Cremin’s reconceptualization of Dewey’s educational program from the school as society writ small to an ensemble of institutions that educate also demands an equal shift in the methods we employ to study educative practices: a shift from methods predicated on measuring the product of educative practice to a method of research more in line with Dewey’s theory of inquiry. That is, methods focused on the metacognitive process of figuring out what to figure out, which is both a process and a reflection upon the product of that process. This is necessitated by a shift in educational research from problem solving in a well-characterized domain, the classroom, with its fixed ends and means, to problem seeking in an ill-formed domain, everyday life, where the ends and means of educative practice exist in reciprocal relation.

Though Cremin’s program leans heavily on Dewey, he was also influenced by Margaret Mead, with whom he studied during a transitional period in her thinking on education. Following on the heels of the 1954 Stanford Conference, in 1958 Margaret Mead wrote a short article for the Harvard Business Review contrasting two modes of education: vertical transmission, the traditional transfer of traditional knowledge between successive generations implying a strong moral element, and horizontal transmission, the transfer of knowledge without the power/knowledge implications of the teacher/taught relationship. Mead writes that horizontal transfer has become the dominant mode in technological society and that educational research needs to develop new concepts and from them methods to keep pace.

To illustrate the point, Mead uses the mundane, for 1958, example of a child teaching her grandparents how to use a television. The grandchild can offer technical instruction on television tuning in an instrumental mode by imparting know-how to her grandparents, but the grandchild cannot be said to also impart sentimental guidance about what to and what not to watch on the television. The technical instruction in tuning from the grandchild is just one moment in an ongoing process of figuring out what to watch, which started with the idea that in 1958 a television is necessary and continues as long as there is a television to be watched. The grandchild’s instruction, therefore, doesn’t set the television watching in motion, but rather meets the grandparents in media res.

As Cremin wrote of people’s everyday efforts in Public Education (1976): ”Everyday in every part of the world people set out to teach something to others or to study something themselves. . . They deserve a theory specifically addressed to their problems and purposes, one that will assist them to act intelligently, ever hopeful of the possibilities but fully aware of the limitations and risks that attend their efforts.” Implied in the quote, as in his reworking of Dewey’s program, is a theory of educative practice for “the ordinary business of living;” it’s a theory focused on the public process of instruction and deliberation; not its private products.


*Michael Scroggins is a PhD student in Anthropology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia. Currently he is conducting research in and around Silicon Valley on DIYBio and Citizen Science in hackerspaces and other informal institutions (this means garages and kitchens for the most part).

The Invisible Walls of Aid

Originally appeared here.

By Scott Freeman

In order to prepare students for the aid industry, graduate and undergraduate institutions have designed degrees and concentrations in international development. Focusing on thinking critically about policy and procedure, students are ostensibly prepared so that previous errors will not be repeated again. But once one is ‘in’ the industry, is knowledge about ‘good policy’ enough?

Conducting research on international development aid most often involves examining a project or initiative, looking at both the implementer and recipient perspective, and using data to critically analyze the situation. Without going into a large literature review, suffice it to say this trail has been walked more than once.

A number of authors (Fechter and Hindman 2011Lewis 2011), have followed aid workers themselves in an attempt to understand their realities, rather than basing criticism only on the bookends of written proposals and completed projects.

Looking at the ways that movements and interactions might be regulated within certain NGOs allows researchers examining policy to move from considering just documents and paper, to thinking about the individuals that make up the development industry. Their movements and interactions are actually key parts of aid, and for some NGO workers, may be a major lens through which ‘the way things work’ is fostered.

While hanging out on a beach in the southwest of Haiti, I had drinks with a number of NGO workers, one of whom enlightened me to the Port au Prince “NGO world” of mobility and immobility. He worked for an agency that was particularly lenient: he had a driver, but was free to drive himself on evenings and weekends. However, he shared with me that most of his other friends and colleagues outside of his organization did not benefit from such leniency. Rules governed where and with whom they could drive. Their movement was largely relegated to a company car. To get in another car, the license plate had to be taken down, the driver verified- a whole series of checks performed before riding in another car, that often served to derail any impromptu rides. Furthermore, his colleagues’ movements within the city might be limited to particular districts. For example, he said, they may not be able to go have a beer in a roadside bar at night in the Delmas area.

His perspective on the situation was eye opening. While beer at a roadside watering hole proves to be out of the question for some workers, getting one of his lower income Haitian friends from Delmas toc come up to an expat drinking hole in Petionville seemed equally as prohibitive. The high prices of drinks, and the difficulty/safety of transport on motorcycle at late hours of the night meant that more often than not, his plans were thwarted.

The NGO worker saw these restrictions as creating a class division that inhibited interactions. He was friends with Haitians of different social classes, but with these security rules in place, facilitating the meeting of one NGO worker with another Haitian friend for a drink became nearly impossible.

What happens when social interactions are restricted in space and time? Are security policies contributing to a growing gap between expat aid workers and the broad diversity of Haitian citizens?

The intersecting immobilities in Port au Prince have implications for how Haiti is experienced and described. These effects ripple through the design of projects and initiatives and, in narratives of Haiti’s  insecurity and limited ‘capacity’, buttress the neo-colonial justification for foreign aid itself.

 * Scott Freeman, is a doctoral student in Applied Anthropology

Refugee education in Kenya: Language and encampment policies

By Meredith Saucier*

The focus of my group’s research has been the quality of refugee education in Kenya, both in the urban Nairobi context and at Kakuma refugee camp, keeping in mind two key government policies that affect education quality: the language policy and the refugee encampment policy. As part of this research, we also analyzed data from an IRC-led study that included class observations and interviews with teachers, pupils, and key informants in Kakuma camp and Nairobi. The preliminary findings from this analysis revealed that many organizations are working to improve education quality at both the urban and camp levels, and that they simultaneously collaborate with the Government of Kenya (GoK) and also attempt to address the challenges that may stem from the GoK’s language and encampment policies.

In order to further the discussion of the organizations at work in Nairobi and Kakuma, I would like to introduce the language and encampment policies in Kenya. In brief, GoK’s language policy as outlined in the Constitution of Kenya is that Kiswahili and English are the official languages and should be taught in schools. As a result of this policy, English is heavily valued. GoK’s encampment policy as outlined in the Refugee Act of 2006 dictates that refugees should reside in camps and that they must be documented and registered. Though urban refugee settlement has been tolerated, the GoK’s policy is still one of refugee encampment.

Kakuma Refugee Camp

There are many organizations at work in Kakuma that maintain varied relationships with the GoK. First and foremost, UNHCR, as the international body mandated to work with refugees, is the only agency mandated to administer Kakuma. UNHCR has partnered with numerous organizations for program implementation at the camp level. These organizations include World Food Program (WFP), Windle Trust International (WTI), Lutheran World Foundation (LWF) and Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS). The latter 3 organizations (WTI, LWF, JRS) were frequently cited in our data as implementers of education programs in Kakuma.

WTI provides teacher training, scholarships, English language training including proficiency certification and TOEFL testing, and girls’ education promotion through programming and teacher recruitment. WTI is committed to partnering with UNHCR to improve the quality of education in Kakuma, and also meets monthly with other implementing partners and the GoK. The Department of Refugee Affairs and the MoE must also give permission to implement programs in Kakuma, keeping implementing organizations accountable to GoK policies.

JRS implements five programs in Kakuma, including for child protection, disability inclusion, English training for teachers, scholarships and online teacher education. The JRS makes it a goal to not duplicate programs in Kakuma and offers only services that other organizations are not, though they also collaborate with partners on some programs. As UNHCR is the managing agency at Kakuma, JRS implements according to UNHCR’s global education policy and also works closely with the GoK and its policies.

LWF was the original implementing organization in Kakuma prior to UNHCR’s absorption of operations. Currently LWF runs multiple programs in Kakuma, including a school meals program, scholarships, child protection, teacher training, inclusion activities, and supplies donation. They also operate several primary and secondary schools. LWF follows UNHCR’s education strategy as well as the GoK policies. LWF also works closely with the MoE and follows the Kenyan curriculum.


In the urban context of Nairobi, UNHCR is the primary agency providing services to refugees. UNHCR’s work in Nairobi is guided by the 2009 UNHCR Urban Refugee policy, which committed the agency to “examine, understand and respond to the needs of refugees living in the Kenyan capital”. UNHCR has been able to raise refugee student enrollment rates, coordinate with Nairobi NGOs and CBOs, build a system in which refugees and asylees can be documented and registered in urban areas, and has provided education services in urban schools, such as English classes.

The primary challenge of offering services in Nairobi as compared to Kakuma is that urban refugees are more dispersed, making it more difficult for UNHCR to locate and implement programs for potential beneficiaries. To accomplish their mandate, UNHCR has partnered with NGOs and the refugee community to improve UNHCR’s access and reach in the urban refugee community. One powerful example of UNHCR’s successful partner-building is a coalition the agency formed with the City Education Department that led to a spike in refugee enrolment at the primary level. UNHCR also convened two inter-agency working groups that advocated for refugees’ access to primary education and the completion of the Refugee Act of 2006. UNHCR has formed strong relationships with NGOs and CBOs in Nairobi, allowing them to offer services to hard-to-reach beneficiaries via their collaborative strategy.

Though UNHCR has been implementing the UNHCR urban refugee policy in Nairobi, and found support in the Mayor of Nairobi as well as other local government actors, the GoK has not formally endorsed the policy nor agreed to its implementation. In a 2011 review of UNHCR’s urban refugee policy implementation, however, it was noted that the Kenyan government seemed to be taking “a number of steps” that align with UNHCR’s policy which may signal a change of perception on the case of urban refugees in Nairobi. Though this is a positive sign, it cannot go unmentioned that in December of 2012 the Kenyan government released a renewed encampment directive ordering all urban refugees to relocate to refugee camps. The GoK suspended refugee and asylee registration following the announcement, and refugees reported police harassment and detention. Ultimately, the refugee community petitioned the directive and it was later rejected in Kenya’s High Court. Though this is a victory for urban and camp-based refugees alike, it remains to be seen how committed the GoK will be toward both protecting the rights of refugees and asylees in urban areas and working toward policies to ease the burden of the ballooning Kakuma refugee population, which surpassed its 100,000 person capacity in 2012 and continues to grow.

Across these urban and camp-based programs are common ties: a focus on English instruction, including teacher training so that teachers may effectively teach English to their refugee students, and particularly in Kakuma, a struggle to meet growing class sizes with both limited supplies and poor teacher to student ratios. These programs suggest that organizations are finding ways to salve the challenges of education provision that arise from GoK’s language and encampment policies, especially considering the challenges that come with implementing in Kakuma, a setting that was initially meant to be a short-term solution and is now moving into more than two decades of operation.

*Meredith Saucier is a Masters student in the International Educational Development program and a student in the Globalization, Migration, and Education Fall 2013 course.

Haitian migrants in Dominican Republic

By Kiran Jayaram*


My doctoral research examined the experiences of Haitian educational and labor migrants to the Dominican Republic.  I chose to study two distinct populations–Haitian university students and workers—in order to examine how class mediates migration experiences. More specifically, I considered how migrants live and understand their specific engagements with the state, market, and society across differences in race, class, gender, and citizenship.  Their actual experiences of incorporation belie neoliberal understandings that would posit a neat alignment of their lives along a vector indexing the market value of their skills. So, for example, in my article titled “Capital Changes,” published in Caribbean Quarterly, I challenge “the myth of Haitian homogeneity” and show how changes in the Dominican economy have provoked shifts in the migration flow, influenced the labor market insertion of Haitian immigrants, and incited changes in anti- Haitian sentiments in the Dominican Republic.

While my primary focus while enrolled at TC was completing my Ph.D., I engaged in several supplemental activities.  Since 2008, I have continued to work for the Workers Rights Consortium regarding issues of Haitian factory workers on the Dominican border.  After the 2010 earthquake, I was hired by the Earth Institute to conduct preliminary research for a major development project and to write a report on land tenure in post-earthquake Haiti (historical, legal, anthropological, conflict resolution, governmental, etc).

Upon returning from the field, I started other activities.  I began teaching an introductory cultural anthropology class and a survey course on world cultures.  Most significantly, I worked with the State University of Haiti’s Faculté d’Ethnologie and my TC colleague Scott Freeman to submit and secure a Wenner-Gren Institutional Development Grant to build a doctoral program of anthropology in Haiti.  Primary international partners are Teachers College and the University of Kansas, but we also have support of faculty from Harvard, Northern Illinois University, the University of Costa Rica, and other educational institutions across the globe.

Currently, I am working with an Amazonianist colleague to develop an NSF grant proposal for urgent research among Haitians living on the Peru-Brazil border.  Undertaking this project is absolutely dependent upon my ability to secure funding before August 2014.  In any case, my next research project, which I submitted as a Fulbright Flex Grant proposal for three years of short-term funding, concerns the economic, social, and cultural consequences of post-earthquake export mango production for Haitian cultivators.  In the more distant future, I will pick up the theme of the dissertation project that originally led me to study at TC:  the political economy and ideologies of literacy and numeracy in Haiti.

Kiran Jayaram is a PhD. Student in the Applied Anthropology Program at Teachers College, Columbia University


A Comparison of Actions toward Roma Inclusion in the European Union

By Chelsea Kallery

On June 29, 2000, the European Union (EU) adopted Council Directive 2000/43/EC, also called the Race Equality Directive (RED), with the goal of providing a legal framework for addressing issues of discrimination based on race or ethnicity. As it was a directive for the entire EU, complaints using it were to be taken to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), as opposed to any national courts.

On February 2, 2005, it was declared that 2005-2015 would be the Decade of Roma Inclusion in twelve countries in the European Union (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Spain.) This was a time to decisively and wholeheartedly address issues of discrimination that were present in each country, and with the guidance of the European Union, the countries would be able to develop policies and National Action Plans that would mirror one another, creating a standard for progress.

On April 5, 2011, six years after the start of the Decade of Roma Inclusion, the European Commission adopted the report entitled An EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020. In this report, the European Commission requested that member countries prepare or revise their own national strategies to help achieve concrete goals for Roma inclusion by the end of December, 2011. The report called attention to four areas of disparity in European society: access to education, employment, healthcare and housing.

Together, these pieces of legislation could to be used to address the severe and constant discrimination faced by Roma people in many parts of Europe. Although they do provide an outline for action, their effectiveness is questionable at best. The report from the European Commission claims that specific action is needed to assist the Roma, but it does not actually present a path for countries to follow. For each of the four main areas of disparity, there are certain suggestions of focus. For example, to improve access to education, the priority is for Roma children to complete primary school. The Council of Europe states that it will train mediators to address discrimination in communities throughout the EU, that teacher training is important, and that early childhood education should be included. These are all rather vague assertions, providing the opportunity for wide variance of interpretation by each country.

In fact, that is exactly what happened. In Hungary, for example, kindergarten is mandatory, whereas the Czech Republic allows its citizens the options of either kindergarten or preparatory classes.

Additionally, simply because the EU released documents containing suggestions for action on issues of inequality does not guarantee that they will be followed or enforced. In her piece entitled, Segregation of Roma Children in Education: Addressing Structural Discrimination through the Race Equality Directive, Lilla Farkas outlines ways in which the RED can be used to assist Roma families. The second part is directed specifically at discrimination in schools. Her interpretation of the RED is thorough and would perhaps be helpful if it were distributed to and discussed with Roma communities. Being commissioned by the European Commission, the piece could even be translated and used by the mediators they mention in their Framework.

The role of the mediators is not clarified in the Framework. While one report on The Situation of Roma School Mediators and Assistants in Europe was released in 2006, and other information has been issued for the health sector, it is unclear what they have done since these projects took place, and whether or not all areas of focus have been sufficiently researched and addressed. (In January 2013, there was a meeting in Brussels to discuss the mediator program, ROMED. The meeting lasted roughly two days and discussions were two or three hours each.)

With the close of the Decade of Roma Inclusion fast approaching, it will be interesting to see how well the EU managed to achieve its goals in assisting the Roma people. While some independent projects have resulted in positive momentum, such as the Roma Mentor Project in Hungary, others are still in the discussion and research-gathering phase. It is not entirely surprising how slowly official developments have been made, especially considering how long it took the EU to provide any sort of guiding document to its member states on Roma inclusion. However, the lack of action does not indicate a change in societal temperaments toward the Roma people. The EU itself has much to do for the Roma. Now that the issue of discrimination is on the table, perhaps the EU can organize around some successful projects and disseminate successful models to other areas in need.

Chelsea Kallery is a Masters student in the Comparative and International Education program and a student in the Globalization, Migration, and Education Fall 2013 course. 


State Dream Acts from a Historical Perspective: The Case of New York

By Antonia Mardones*

Currently, one issue of major concern is undocumented immigrants´ access to higher education in the United States. This is particularly true for Latin American immigrants, because of their important presence within the immigrant population and their lower citizenship rates and lower attainment rates than other immigrants groups. (Flores, 2010). My current research analyzes how different State policies can have an impact on these immigrants’ enrollment, performance and completion of higher education, analyzing the cases of Texas, California and New York, as three states that have enacted in-state tuition legislations that have been popularly called “State Dream Acts”. This appellative comes from the fact that these State legislations are playing the role of making it up for the repeatedly rejection of the Congress to pass the Federal Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (Dream Act), first introduced to the congress on August 2001. This legislation would give undocumented immigrants who arrived to the country before the age of 16 and have been living here continuously during at least 5 years, several immigration benefits, as the right to access higher education at in-state tuition rates, and would provide a pathway towards legal residence. At this time, 15 States have passed “State Level Dream Acts”, but two of those, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, have revoked them afterwards.

The case of New York is quite special, because of its long history of providing higher education to undocumented students. In effect, the City University of New York (CUNY) until 1976 provided free education for everyone; only in that year did they begin charging tuition and establish a distinction between residents and non-residents, with undocumented students classified at that moment as non-resident. But in 1989, an executive order was issued by the New York City’s Democratic Mayor, Edward Norton, that permitted undocumented immigrants to enroll at higher education institutions at in-state tuition rates.

Differently from most other states, when the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) was passed on 1996 –which amongst other things, restricted undocumented immigrants´ access to higher education by prohibiting states to charge in-state tuition rates to them – in New York, CUNY campuses continued providing in-state tuition rates to undocumented students, under the argument that the IIRIRA didn´t specify any sanction or consequence towards the institutions that didn´t follow its commands. In contrast, SUNY campuses –fearing a loss of federal financial student aid – reacted by no longer recognizing undocumented students as in-state residents.

It is quite interesting that what finally made CUNY reverse its inclusive policy were the political pressures that followed the terrorist attacks of 9/11, pressures that were led by the Republican State Senator, Frank Padavan. It is necessary to underline now the important role that students and community organizations played on this stage, creating awareness of the seriousness of the situation that undocumented students would have to face. Different students associations were created, such as the Mexican American Student Alliance (MASA) and “CUNY is Our Future”, and also many civil right organizations were active on the political scene, as the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Hispanic Federation, among others.

Finally, in 2002 the Senate Bill 7784 and Assemble Bill 9612, sponsored by the Democrat Adriano Espaillat, were introduced in New York’s legislative body. These legislations, which conform what is known as the “New York Dream Act,” made it legal for undocumented students to access university at in-state rate tuitions, if they accomplished certain requirements, such as: attending at least two years a New York high school, being a high school graduate or holding a New York GED, and applying to a SUNY or CUNY school within five years, plus filing an affidavit with that institution stating they would file an application to legalize their immigration status as soon as they were eligible. Curiously, this legislation was also supported by the Republican governor George Pataki, which some interpreted as resulting from his desire to win the immigrant vote for his reelection.

Although this law represents a great advancement, there are still many obstacles for undocumented students’ enrollment in higher education at New York. First, as a study by Nienhusser and Dougherty (2010) shows, there have been problems with the implementation of the law, whose responsibility falls on the CUNY and SUNY systems, for which these institutions have received no resources. Their college staff`s lack of knowledge and, on occasion, insensitivity towards undocumented immigrants, the limited information available for students, and their fear of applying because of their immigration status, are the main issues that constrain their enrollment.

Further, although this population is eligible to pay in-state tuition rates, they cannot apply for state financial aid, which forces many undocumented students to combine work with school or to enroll on a part-time basis and can lead to dropping out of college. Additionally, there are still many undocumented students that don´t classify for this benefit and are in a very vulnerable situation after finishing high school. Lastly, even if undocumented students are able to finish their post-secondary studies, this state legislation doesn´t assures them a path to citizenship, so they may have to face great difficulties to work and may be deported after graduation.

Undocumented student´s access to higher education needs to be guaranteed at the federal level with urgency. The truth is that most of the undocumented immigrants that apply for higher education were brought to the United States by their parents. Most of them have lived most of their lives in the United States and are not likely to return to their countries of origin, so this law is affecting people that can contribute to the American society. Although a federal Dream Act would be a big step towards a better integration of this community, a comprehensive immigration reform is still a debt that the actual government has towards the immigrant community.

* Antonia Mardones is a master’s student in the Anthropology Program at  Columbia University; a student in the Globalization, Migration, and Education Fall 2013 course; and an international student from Chile.