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California State University Chancellor Raises Concerns About End Of DACA


Fifteen states and the District of Columbia are suing the Trump administration over its decision to wind down DACA. That's the federal program that lets some young people who are in the country illegally stay without fear of deportation and go to school or work. Universities are also trying to figure out their next moves.


California State University has more undocumented students than almost any other higher education system in America. Timothy White is the chancellor of Cal State and joins us now. Welcome to the program.

TIMOTHY WHITE: Thank you - happy to be here.

SHAPIRO: You oversee 23 campuses across the state of California. What impact would the end of DACA have on your schools?

WHITE: Well, it would make it so several thousand of our students and several hundred of our employees would lose the status that DACA has provided. And for some, that would mean they would drop out of school out of fear. For others, it would mean that they would not be able to get a job or have the sort of ability to function in society once they earn their college degree. So we're actually deeply disappointed in the president's action and are working strongly with, now, our congressional members to create legislation to reverse this.

SHAPIRO: Can you tell me about a conversation you've had with somebody in the Cal State community in the last day that underscores the impact this would have?

WHITE: I've had several students reach out to me. They have goosebumps. They have tears in their eyes. They're so scared and so concerned about having their education interrupted. You know, I'm an immigrant from Argentina and arrived in the United States when I was 9. And it was the California public higher education system that allowed me to go to community college in Cal State campuses and then to UC for my degrees. I know what this means.

SHAPIRO: You sent out a statement yesterday to students, faculty and staff in which you expressed disappointment in the Trump administration's decision. And you also said it would not have an impact on enrollment, tuition or financial aid to students. Explain why.

WHITE: Because California is a state with our Cal Grant program, and the California State University, through our state university grant program, provide financial aid to students. The only area where there is a limitation is our undocumented students are not eligible for federal financial aid. Between our own campus-based programs, private philanthropy and the Cal Grant program, we're able to continue to support these students.

SHAPIRO: But even if DACA does go away and they are able to stay in school, they then would not be able to legally work afterwards.

WHITE: That's a problem that we're going to have to solve as a society. That's correct.

SHAPIRO: Right now we're in a period of uncertainty where the Trump administration has given Congress six months to act. And he has said that if they don't, he may reconsider his decision. How does that uncertainty affect your students and staff?

WHITE: Well, you know, learning is difficult enough when you're taking calculus and working hard. You may be first in your family to go to school. Many of our students are also working 20, 30 hours a week in order to make ends meet financially. And you add on top of that, then, the worry about not only themselves - whether they are going to lose this protection or not - but also the risk of their family being pulled apart - different members of the family being sent back to a home country.

That added uncertainty makes it even more difficult for these men and women to focus on their studies and earn their degree in a timely fashion. So it is a wholly unhelpful act that is going to add consternation and time and cost to our students in order for them to earn their degrees.

SHAPIRO: There are still so many details left to be worked out about how this will be implemented, so many unanswered questions. What do you most urgently need to know right now?

WHITE: The most urgent thing is to make sure that students realize that there's still a month to go. If their DACA authorization is going to expire prior to March 2018, they are able to renew them for another two-year term. But they have to submit a renewal by essentially a month from now to the Department of Homeland Security by October 5, 2017. So that's really, really important for everybody to recognize - that there's still a window of time for a renewal of existing DACA students and employees.

SHAPIRO: Dr. Timothy White is the chancellor of the California State University system. Thanks for joining us today.

WHITE: Happy to be with you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.