Legislative pushback stops several colleges short on sanctuary campus efforts

Dive Brief:

  • Data suggests that more than 250,000 students in the United States are undocumented citizens, but threats from federal and state lawmakers against colleges seeking to offer them protection from deportation have forced many college leaders into difficult moral and economic decisions. 
  • Several public and private institutions, including Portland State University, Swarthmore College and Sante Fe Community College have declared themselves as sanctuary campuses. Other institutions like Emory University and the Southern Illinois University System have rejected calls for similar action, citing threatened cuts to student aid and federal research funding from state and national legislators. 
  • College campuses have long held immunity from immigration action, but the Trump White House has not indicated if it will uphold the long-standing policy on enforcement. 

Dive Insight:

Some estimates have suggested that the federal travel could cost institutions more than $700 million in lost tuition revenue, but the threat of even greater losses in federal student aid represent a far greater financial danger to higher education. College leaders are not in a difficult financial position because the known benefits of sanctuary status do not appear, at least immediately, to outweigh the unknown consequences of campuses potentially being raided by immigration officials and blocked from federal resources. 

The new objective for campus leaders is to make the data known to students and donors about what these rules mean. The impact on teaching and enrollment, the cultural losses and the potential decline in research productivity are easy to assess and should be published to the campus community with insight about campus commitment to diversity and cultural exploration. 

Filed Under: Higher Ed
Top image credit: Barnes & Noble College