EXCLUSIVE: Bakersfield College funneled nearly $200k to undocumented student programs

Grant agreements obtained by Campus Reform reveal a partnership between Bakersfield College and a pro-undocumented student organization.

In two years, $199,700 was spent on support and services for these students.

A public community college in California has funneled just under $200,000 to undocumented student programs, documents obtained by Campus Reform show.

The California Campus Catalyst Fund is a “grantmaking initiative” for undocumented students and their families attending California state schools such as Bakersfield College, a community college with over 2,000 undocumented students in attendance.

Bakersfield has used money from this fund in 2019 and 2020 to support its initiatives for undocumented students, according to public records request done by Campus Reform. 

“The California Community College system participates in the statewide higher ed Nonresident Tuition Exemption known as AB 540,” Bakersfield communications and marketing manager Monika Scott told Campus Reform

AB 540 “exempts” out-of-state students from paying nonresident tuition based on eligibility criteria such as having spent at least three years at a California elementary, middle or high school. The program does not consider documentation status.

Documents obtained by Campus Reform through a public records request reveal a three-year partnership between Bakersfield College and Immigrants Rising, a fiscally sponsored project of Community Initiatives that seeks to equip undocumented students with tools and financial support towards earning a college degree. 

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Community Initiatives is termed a “fiscal sponsor” which means that it shares its 501(c)(3) status with “qualified nonprofit projects” such as Immigrants Rising. 

“With this shared status, the project does not need to incorporate as a 501(c)(3), which means, among other things, that you also don’t have to file your own taxes!,” the Community Initiatives website states.

A 2020 press release revealed that the first grant from Immigrants Rising in 2018 allowed Bakersfield’s undocumented student organization Latinos Unidos Por Education (LUPE) to establish the Conexiones Estudiantiles Project which “informs undocumented students about laws governing their rights around DACA.”

Campus Reform obtained California Campus Catalyst Fund grant agreements between Bakersfield College and Community Initiatives for 2019 and 2020. 

Under the 2019 agreement, Bakersfield College was to establish a “new Program Specialist position” whose main purpose is to provide support and services to undocumented students. The goal of this hire was to have reached out to at least 800 individuals and offer on- and off-campus services.

Additionally, Project Conexiones Estudiantiles was to “expand its membership” to at least fifty students.

The grant also provided for an “increase [in] legal service support” for more than 100 undocumented students and families.”

Bakersfield College was to also select faculty members who will “foster and expand leadership opportunities, capacity and empowerment of undocumented students” on campus. 

Budget items for the second-year proposal include $28,000 for student assistants, over $37,000 for a full-time department assistant, nearly $8,000 for “outreach programming & mileage,” and $10,000 for “legal fees for attorney visits.” 

The grant totaled $129,000 and lasted for a period of July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020. 

The subsequent grant between the entities ran from October 26, 2020, to June 30, 2021, and totaled $70,700. 

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The goals of the 2020 grant included “finalizing sustainability plans for continued funding,” “expand the scope of services and financial supports,” support at most 500 undocumented students, and “submit at least three grant proposals to continue serving the undocumented student population beyond the support received through this grant.”

Budget items include over $55,000 for student assistants and peer mentors focused on Project Conexiones and the “Dreamer Open House” event, $2,000 for one faculty member’s stipend, and $4,000 for supplies and materials. 

“This additional support has resulted in increased degree and certificate completion rates for AB540 students at Bakersfield College,” Scott revealed.

Scott also told Campus Reform that the Catalyst Fund grant has not been renewed.

Campus Reform reached out to Community Initiatives and Immigrants Rising for comment but did not respond in time for publication.