Session: Immigrant Youth, Higher Education, and the Transition to Adulthood (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

246 Immigrant Youth, Higher Education, and the Transition to Adulthood

Saturday, January 19, 2019: 4:00 PM-5:30 PM
Continental Parlor 8, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
Cluster: Immigrants and Refugees (I&R)
Todd Herrenkohl, PhD, University of Washington
Symposium Organizer:
Benjamin Roth, PhD, University of South Carolina
This symposium builds on critical scholarship at the intersection of immigration, youth development, and educational attainment. We explore the developmental pathways of vulnerable immigrant youth who confront a range of structural barriers while pursuing higher education, including poverty, discrimination, mental health concerns, and social isolation. These barriers interact with state and local policy contexts, but research is only beginning to understand how these circumstances influence the educational pathways of immigrant youth. Therefore, in addition to looking at national trends, we address the experiences of immigrant students who grow up in states with restrictive policy contexts—such as some states in the U.S. South—as well as more welcoming policy environments. We aim to highlight two additional aspects of this problem that are often absent in social work research and popular discourse on immigration: the voices of immigrant youth, and the perspective of helping professionals who are ostensibly positioned to assist them.

Together, the papers in this symposium examine the following broad questions: (1) What barriers to higher education do immigrant youth face? (2) What mechanisms and strategies help them overcome these obstacles? And (3) How do the institutional contexts associated with higher education condition these barriers, mechanisms, and strategies? We address these and other questions with particular attention to the cross-cutting impact of the policy environment (at federal, state, local, and organizational levels) and age-at-arrival.

Papers in this symposium highlight diversity among immigrant youth themselves, particularly their age at arrival. First-generation immigrants are broadly defined as individuals who were born abroad, but this symposium also explores higher education experiences of 1.5 generation immigrants (those who came before age 12) and 1.25 generation (those who came between ages 13 – 17). We explore the implications of age-at-arrival for a range of educational outcomes that may shape access to higher education, and the role of “gatekeepers” within higher education institutions who are positioned to help immigrant students navigate college.

The first two papers present the perspectives of immigrant youth on the transition from high school to higher education. These papers identify modes of help-seeking among different types of immigrant students and analyze the structural barriers that hinder them. These qualitative papers offer a textured understanding of the educational pathways through the lens of the youth themselves. The third paper pulls back the lens, using a national sample of immigrant youth to capture trends in their access to mental health services. This quantitative study invites a comparative perspective on help-seeking behavior for immigrant students relative to their native-born counterparts. The final paper looks at the delivery side of the help-seeking transaction, focusing specifically on how social work students understand the unique advising needs of undocumented immigrant students who are in a state where they are blocked from attending many public higher education institutions.

* noted as presenting author
Undocumented Students, Faculty, and Higher Education: Engaging in Research to Oppose Discrimination
Tatiana Otalora, MSW, University of Georgia; Jane McPherson, PhD, MPH, LCSW, University of Georgia
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