How Erika Glazer Helps California's Immigrant DREAMers

Previously, we've reported on efforts by funders to provide financial support to undocumented college students, as well as those whose immigration status leaves them in a kind of legal limbo. In addition to private financial aid support for these so-called "DREAMers," more than a dozen states allow undocumented students to attend college for in-state tuition rates.

Undocumented students' needs are not limited to help with tuition, fees, and college textbooks. Often, they require help navigating other aspects of U.S. higher education, such as academic advising and referrals. Because of their immigration status, they also require legal assistance. Recently, a Los Angeles-area funder has stepped forward to help a top state university meet those needs for its DREAMer population.

Philanthropist Erika J. Glazer recently gave California State University-Los Angeles $1.6 million to fund a resource center for the school's DREAMer students. The funds from Glazer will underwrite staff costs and maintain a dedicated space to provide academic advising services, referral assistance, and other types of support for undocumented students. The university will name the center the Erika J. Glazer Family Dreamers Resource Center.

These developments appear to signal a growing recognition among policymakers and funders that the needs of DREAMers are not limited to financial aid. Let's hope other states pick up on what's happening in California.

Glazer, who heads the Erika J. Glazer Family Foundation in Beverly Hills, has a track record of supporting undocumented students at Cal State L.A. Since 2006, the funder has provided more than $2 million in scholarship funding for such students. In recent years, however, Glazer saw less need for private scholarship money and higher need for a center where students can access other services and assistance to help them successfully navigate a four-year university. However, she also hopes the center will help mainstream DREAMers into university life and become obsolete in a few years, making the funds available for other Cal State L.A. programs.

The $1.6 million gift from Glazer comes as California lawmakers are examining other ways to help undocumented college students. In 2001, California and Texas became the first states to allow undocumented students to attend college at in-state tuition rates. Since then, more than a dozen states have followed suit. Proposed legislation in Sacramento would establish resource centers similar to the type funded by Glazer at community colleges and the California State University system. The bill also extends such centers to K-12 school districts.

These developments indicate a growing recognition among policymakers and funders that the educational needs of DREAMers are not limited to financial aid. An old saying holds that "as California goes, so goes the country." Here's hoping other states take notice of what's happening in the Golden State around this crucial issue.