Our DREAM is an Institution Prepared to Serve All Learners
This piece, written by President Andrea Cook, first appeared on March 25, 2013, as a Guest Opinion feature on OregonLive.
One thing is clear: the conversation around immigration policy has shifted in the country and there is no turning back. The political landscape has been forever altered by the country’s changing demographics, and we think the diversification of the United States offers deep hope for the future.
There are millions of bright diverse students in our country who are poised to lead, and it appears as if it is just a matter of time before some version of comprehensive immigration reform is passed — hopefully including a significant investment in the future of undocumented youth.
As one of Oregon’s most accessible private, Christ-centered, four-year colleges, the future of our region’s youth is an issue of great concern to Warner Pacific College. We believe that educational opportunity should be made available to all those who wish to pursue it. To that end, we lowered our tuition by 23 percent in 2008.
While recent state tuition equity policy changes (House Bill 2787) have no bearing on private colleges like Warner Pacific, our future planning is focused on serving our region’s increasingly diverse student population. We recognize that in each of Washington County’s four largest school districts (Tigard-Tualatin, Forest Grove, Hillsboro and Beaverton), Latino students comprise between 23 and 48 percent of the student population, with even higher percentages in lower grades.
Whether undocumented or not, we know that Latino students and their families have needs and aspirations that have not been served well by traditional higher education. One of those needs, certainly, is affordability, and federal policy like the DREAM Act (the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) could improve access to education for thousands of our region’s young people.
As we anticipate the opportunity to serve DREAMers and their families, we are committed to investing our institutional resources to that end. Traditional students live and learn at our Mt. Tabor campus in Southeast Portland. However, we also serve adult learners in an accelerated evening format that is more conducive to the lives of working students, available at one of five locations throughout the Portland metropolitan region. We will be launching our second westside location in the fall.
We know that serving diverse students means shifting priorities and changing institutional infrastructure, and we are passionate about serving Washington County’s students in innovative and effective ways.
We consider ourselves part of the growing coalition of faith leaders and churches that view love and care for our neighbors as the utmost calling. As a higher education institution, living into our mission with coherence means that it is important for Warner Pacific College to state clearly: We believe access to higher education is a justice issue; therefore, we are committed to serving students and families for whom college has been out of reach.
When the DREAM Act is signed, Warner Pacific College will celebrate. We invite you to join us.