University of California President Janet Napolitano made one of her first appearances in Oakland, California, on Wednesday, Oct. 29, to send a message to the local high schools about applying to college and to address the controversial issue of undocumented students.
Napolitano claimed that she is devoting $5 million to provide financial aid for students that are undocumented. In addition, according to ABC local news, Napolitano vows to make college within reach for all students.
“If your family makes less than $80,000 dollars a year, you pay no tuition at the University of California,” she said. “Not a single dollar.”
The former Secretary of Homeland Security announced her initiative after she became head of the 10-campus university system about a month ago. According to ABC local, she pledged $15 million for undocumented students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows, each group receiving $5 million in funds.
“UC welcomes all students who qualify academically, whether they are documented or undocumented,” she said in prepared remarks released by her office before the speech. “Consider this a down payment — one more piece of evidence of our commitment to all Californians.”
However, despite the great changes being made, many fear that she will bring a heavy policy against immigration to the university campuses. Many University of California students point out the large number of immigration arrests and deportations that Napolitano issued as Head of Homeland Security.
A group of about 10 University of California, Berkeley students involved in the By Any Means Necessary civil rights group (BAMN) initiated a plan to picket and protest at the high school during Napolitano’s visit, according to the San Francisco Appeal. Some Oakland Technical High School BAMN members planned to go into smaller meetings of about 50 students with Napolitano in the school’s library to question how the university would fulfill its historic mission in serving the people in California.
“High school students are already thinking about not applying to the UC schools, just because she’s there, because they are undocumented, or because their families are undocumented,” UC Berkeley student Isamar Ochoa said.
However, since her appointment as UC president, Napolitano has put noticeable effort into alleviating the protests that many campus activists have about her being hostile to immigrants. In her speech on Wednesday in Oakland, she stated that she wants to do more for first generation students, documented or undocumented.
According to the Huffington Post, Napolitano will dedicate an extra $10 million to graduate students.
“Graduate students and post-docs are the essential links between teaching for California and researching for the world,” she said. “They are our future faculty members. They are our future innovators. They are our future Nobel laureates.”
Napolitano said that she believes her job fulfills the mission of educating students and serving as an incubator for important research.