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Education access group eager to hear from students

Pattinson-M-2011-80PULLMAN, Wash. – A coalition that advocates for undocumented students wants to hear directly from them how House Bill 1079 is affecting them. The Washington State Educational Access Coalition for HB1079 Students will meet Friday, Dec. 6, on the Washington State University Pullman campus.

Ten HB1079 students, representing WSU and four other universities, will share testimonials and brainstorm ideas for how universities and colleges can improve access and support for students like them.

The state legislature approved the bill in 2003 to make a college education more affordable for certain undocumented students, primarily by enabling them to pay resident tuition.

HB1079 also calls upon higher education institutions to educate these students about the benefits of a college education, how to apply for admission, how to pay for college and how to be successful.

WSU a leader

In response to the legislation, WSU provided leadership in securing a three-year grant from College Spark Washington, a nonprofit that helps underrepresented students go to college and graduate.

WSU is a leader in building a strong network and creating programs specifically aimed at assisting first-generation, low-income and underrepresented students, said Marcela Pattinson, WSU Office for Access, Equity and Achievement.

“This kind of work began many years ago, which built a solid infrastructure of support in key places throughout our university,” she said.

“HB1079 students want to be empowered with accurate information so they can be better advocates for themselves, whether talking with student leaders on their campuses or our legislators in Olympia,” she said.

Survey, summit complete grant

Funded by the grant, the coalition is conducting an online survey of HB1079 students and university administrators to gain insight about problems and the best ways to create a safe, knowledgeable and welcoming environment on campuses for non-United States citizens.

The coalition plans to report research findings and best practices for serving these students during the grant’s final event, a summit on June 20 at the University of Washington.

Educators, families key

The grant spurred creation of the coalition, which is comprised of faculty, staff and administrators from WSU, UW, Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University, Western Washington University, Seattle Community Colleges and the Latino/a Educational Achievement Project.

During the grant’s first year, coalition members created research instruments and began the process of identifying best practices used across the state to serve undocumented students. Many of the findings were implemented the following year, including creation of a website (http://coalition.wsu.edu), informational brochures in Spanish, English and Mandarin, and a video aimed at educating parents, teachers and counselors.

“Parents and teachers are the most important influencers for students,” said Pattinson. “If they aren’t educated on these issues, we’ve already lost half the battle.”

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