About the Project


Undocumented students have lead a vibrant and successful movement to promote awareness and demand institutional resources to support educational equity regardless of immigration status. They have been joined by dedicated student affairs professionals, faculty, and institutional stakeholders who have advocated for their inclusion. This project aims to help support these efforts through academically rigorous data that will inform stakeholders within educational institutions on how to best provide resource that meet the needs of undocumented students.



The first wave of the project explored undergraduate student experiences at the University of California (UC) system. The first wave of USEP data was collected between 2014-2016. Focus groups and survey data collection focused on exploring student’s experiences on their UC campus and their use of campus resources. 154 UC undergraduate students participated in 32 focus groups and 29 one-on-one interviews throughout all nine undergraduate UC campuses. Participants included individuals from non-Latina/o racial backgrounds and who did not have DACA.

We also administered an online survey with 455 items in Spring 2016. We collected responses from 508 undocumented undergraduate students across all nine UC undergraduate campuses. We surveyed approximately fifteen percent of each campus’ estimated undocumented student population.



Motivated by survey data that established undocumented students’ mental health strain, we conducted a second wave of data collection at one University of California campus. We interviewed 30 undocumented students from March to July 2017 about their overall mental health, stress, formal and informal coping strategies, and the impact on their educational experiences.



Motivated by survey data that established undocumented students’ academic struggles, we conducted a third wave of data collection at one University of California campus. We interviewed 30 undocumented students from March to July 2017 about their academic experiences, including overall academic performance and the use of academic support services.

This sub-study is being extended to a California State University campus and two university campuses in another state to compare experiences across institutional types and state policy contexts.


UC and CSU undocumented students: Exploring federal policy and institutional context

A collaboration with the UC Collaborative to Promote Immigrant and Student Equity, we are conducting a survey of UC and CSU undocumented students from January to March 2020. We seek to situate known barriers within institutional contexts, particularly the presence and use of undocumented student resources, to assess the extent to which educational settings matter for undocumented college students’ educational and well-being outcomes. We aim to understand how undocumented students’ education and well-being has shifted under increasingly exclusionary federal policies and identify if and how educational institutional resources can reduce the consequences of illegality and promote fuller immigrant incorporation.


Funding was provided by grants from the John Randolph and Dora Haynes Foundation, UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, University of California Consortium on Social Science and Law, University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States, University of California Office of the President, and grant programs at UC Irvine (CORCL, Office of Inclusive Excellence, School of Social Sciences, and Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program).