Emily found that a path to and through Berkeley was possible through support provided by the Undocumented Students Program.

Case Study Highlights


The creation of programs and a center on campus where undocumented students can find support without judgment or fear.


  • Build networks to take on the broader agenda of “sharing the model” and communicating a sense of urgency.
  • Account for contextual challenges faced by undocumented students. 


  • Extend the discussion about undocumented students beyond cost. 


  • Working in partnership with Educators for Fair Consideration, the Undocumented Students Program (USP) will publish a college scorecard report to provide a framework on how institutions can better serve undocumented students.

Emily ’14 came to the United States from South Korea when she was 10 years old with her twin sister, her older brother, and their mother. Living in the United States, Emily always dreamed of going to college. “My family strongly believed that we lived in a country where, despite our difficulties, we could succeed if we worked hard,” she said. “I knew that, because of my undocumented status, my options for college were limited. But I also knew that there were more options for undocumented students in California.”

With many policies designed to assist undocumented people pursue higher education already in place, the California legislature passed AB 540 in 2001, which allowed for undocumented students to pay in-state tuition prices if they attended a California high school for three or more years, graduated from a California high school or attained a G.E.D., and filed an affidavit stating that they would apply for legal residency as soon as possible.

Emily and her sister were both accepted to both UCLA and Berkeley. After learning of their undocumented status, a Berkeley orientation coordinator promised them she’d help them navigate the possibilities based on AB 540. This offer of support encouraged Emily to choose Berkeley.

However, financial pressures mounted. Unable to cover tuition costs, Emily had to drop out after one year at Berkeley. At the time, undocumented students were able to pay in-state tuition prices, but were barred from receiving state financial aid, institutional scholarships, or student loans.

Emily worked for a year, saving her money to pay the following year’s tuition. In 2011, she re-enrolled at Berkeley. In 2012, Berkeley convened a special task force on undocumented students chaired by Vice Chancellor Gibor Basri. Berkeley formed the Undocumented Student Program (USP) to offer a wide number of services to undocumented students including a Dreamer Resource Center, academic counseling, emergency grants, housing resources, a Dream Lending Library, mental health and wellness, and immigration legal support.

“The program helped me have a sense of belonging on the campus for the first time.”


For Emily and many other undocumented students like her, the Dreamer Resource Center also offered a safe space. “The program helped me have a sense of belonging on the campus for the first time,” she said.

The day after graduation, Emily started her first job. She now serves as a community health specialist at Asian Health Services, a community health center and advocacy group for Asian immigrants and refugees. Emily sees her work as a continuation and extension of the support provided by the Undocumented Student Program at Berkeley. “The Berkeley pioneers who started programs like this encouraged me to find ways to give back to the community and help underserved groups,” she said. “I learned that I could be undocumented and still be able to serve my community.”

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Video Extra: Berkeley’s Undocumented Student Program (USP)

USP supports the advancement of undocumented students within higher education and promotes pathways for engaged scholarship. The program offers an extraordinary holistic network of support services to undocumented students.

UC Berkeley's Undocumented Student Program: Your Campus, Your Community


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Learn more about the programs at Berkeley that made this case study possible.

  Transfer Scholarship Initiative

  Undocumented Student Program