A college education is often seen as the ticket; to financial stability, to a job, to self-respect. Immigrants come to the U.S. seeking an education for themselves and their children. They work overtime to pay for one. That place in the American Dream has been memorialized in federal and state legislation that attempts to clear a way for those immigrants whose legal status effectively locks them out of classrooms, campuses and citizenship. A federal Dream Act has been pending in Congress for more than 10 years without passage; an Illinois version became law a few months ago. It created a privately-funded scholarship program for immigrants – documented and undocumented.

In a continuing unique collaboration with Chicago area’s ethnic news media and the Community Media Workshop through its Chicago is the World project, Immigrant Connect explored the many challenges immigrant communities face in attending and acclimating to college.

There are stories of —

undocumented students “who turn to ROTC programs to fund their education; who reap tangible, financial rewards from confiding in professors and academic advisors; and who in the Korean community are emerging from the closet to access local resources;

the arcane procedures of nostrification being harnessed in the Polish community;

how a divide in the Lithuanian community is affect students’ college experience;

how Indian students find the comforts of home in the confines of campuses;

how opportunities for higher education among second generation Filipinos is creating a generation gap in the community; and

how the ticket to education among African immigrants is becoming a visa to a pan-African sense of homeland.

Graphic created by Rachel Aguiar

Ten ethnic media outlets collaborated on the project. They are Extra (Hispanic), Reflejos (Hispanic), Pinoy Newsmagazine (Filipino), InformacjeUSA.com (Polish), Al Moustaqbal: Future newspaper (Arab), India Tribune, Korea Daily NewsDraugasThe Lituanian World-wide Daily, Urdu Times (Pakistani) and Africa Today.

Read the stories here —

Undocumented students: ROTC sees the opportunity and it is us – By Ashley Balcerzak and Janalynn Pugh in collaboration with Extra

[Read the Spanish version here]

Kids who have illegal immigration status are turning to the ROTC to aid them in funding their education. It’s not foolproof and it’s not supported officially by the military, but it’s a path officers in JROTC programs aren’t overlooking.

For Chicago’s undocumented, opening up can pay off – By Julia Anaya and Adam Sege in collaboration with Reflejos

As several Chicago-area college students are learning, sharing one’s immigration status with the right people can do more than support a political movement. For students looking for help paying for college, it yields personal, tangible results too.

A silent struggle: Undocumented Korean students strive to attend collegeBy Katie Gronendyke and Jake Rosner in collaboration with Korea Daily News

In Chicago’s Korean community, undocumented and visa-holding students face mounting obstacles to paying for college. They’ve used scholarships, help from their parents, and long hours of low-paying work to make the best of the situation, but often it goes unrecognized.

Transferring degrees, transferring lives  By Karen Chen and Priyanka Tilve in collaboration with InformacjeUSA.com

Nostrification is complicated; most people have never heard the word. It’s the process of recognizing a degree from a foreign university, and for Poles, language barriers, financial issues, and life’s tradeoffs often get in the way.

Navigating the divide for Lithuanian college students – By Anca Ulea in collaboration with Draugas: The Lithuanian World-Wide Daily

[Read the Lithuanian version here]

There’s a divide among college-aged Lithuanians. Recent immigrants who left after Lithuania’s liberation see the world differently than Lithuanians who were born in America, and whose parents and grandparents left Lithuania after World War II. And it affects their college experience.

Indian students find comforts of home in the confines of school – By Alyssa Clough and Jasmyne McDonald in collaboration with the India Tribune

Even after Indian immigrants become acclimated to the new culture in America, they might not feel comfortable in a college classroom setting. This is why relations with professors and faculty are so important, can impact students positively or negatively, and are imperative to success in higher education.

Higher education a blessing and curse to Filipino community – By Priya Krishnakumar and Paris West in collaboration with Pinoy Newsmagazine

Increasing opportunities for higher education among second generation Filipinos is creating a generation gap in the community.

Giving back by going back, with pan-African dimensionsBy Heba Hasan and Safiya Merchant in collaboration with Africa Today

For many African immigrants, education is their ticket to a dream of returning to their homeland and helping their communities. In the process, many are discovering an expanded notion of homeland, one with a pan-African cast to it.


The stories were released in December 2011 and January 2012. Each ethnic media outlet is carrying the story about how the issue affects its own community. For non-English publications, the stories are being translated into their respective languages.

Students at Northwestern University and its Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications reported and wrote the stories, while the publishers and editors helped shape the process through their work with Medill’s Immigrant Connect project. The work is supported by grants from The Chicago Community Trust’s Community News Matters project, the McCormick Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation.

This is the fifth in the continuing partnership linking communities through their ethnic media. The first explored the impact of the 2010 U.S. Census count on their communities and were released simultaneously on Fri., Jan. 15, 2010, in the ethnic media and on Immigrant Connect. Check out the series here – Census stories link diverse immigrant communities.

The second examined the relationships between immigrants and their children, and discovered that immigrant communities are crossing the generational divide in ways that resonate for one another. They were released simultaneously in June 2010. That series is here – Immigrant communities cross the generational divide together.

The third dealt with the homeland, the place, the memory, the heritage, and the multiple meanings it has for Chicago’s immigrants. They were released in December 2010. That series is here – Home and the homeland: Chicago’s immigrants keep connecting.

The fourth looked into the risks but also the options of health care in immigrant communities. The stories were released in early June 2011. That series is here – Health care for Chicago’s immigrants: Alternative options and risks

This is the only effort of this kind today in the U.S. as far as the partners know.