K. Gonzalez, the student of unknown (by me) gender who worked so hard to get into Berkeley, to pay for one semester, and wrote this about the experience, sounds like a wonderful person, with one exception: The part that breaks immigration law. But the editorial drone who wrote the headline needs to be slapped silly.
A College Dream Ends Too Soon
I worked hard to get into Berkeley and I worked even harder when I got there. But when my funds ran out, I had to leave.
That headline says one thing: This undocumented alien is a victim. But this excerpt from the article says something completely different: This undocumented alien is a very hard worker and is incapable of acting like a victim.
I found a tiny room near the campus, enrolled in classes, and landed a job selling jewelry in a San Francisco mall. From Friday through Monday, I worked full-time, waking up at 6:30 a.m. to get to work by 9. I couldn't spend the weekends like other students, lazing in the sun or exploring neighborhoods. Still, for two glorious days each week, Tuesday and Thursday, I had classes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and was taught by some amazing professors. I would run from one class to the next, using my breaks to stop by the library. I slept odd hours, many days finishing homework at the crack of dawn. I was very well organized. Wednesday was the day I took care of business—everything from food shopping to laundry to paying bills.
Surprisingly, I found time to make friends and, perhaps more surprisingly, mostly with political conservatives. They proved to be remarkably open-minded, and I loved their outlandish conversations and unabashed candor. They never questioned my odd hours, nor did I offer to explain. They apparently believed that I was simply another workaholic. Perhaps not so "simply," but I was a workaholic for sure. I had no choice.
In case it isn't apparent, K. Gonzalez is still going to college, still working hard, still planning to go back to Berkeley, and still dreaming. The headline is misleading. Gonzalez is probably still making friends with conservatives, since they are so similar in principles and philosophy.
Analysis and Troubleshooting
There are two major problems here, neither one of which can be solved in time to ease K. Gonzalez' way to Berkeley, and a minor problem, which might have a solution.
- College costs, even at a state university such as Berkeley, have gone through the roof. I suspect that student loans and federal grants have a lot to do with this. Another issue is that college degrees have become a filter that businesses, prevented by the Supreme Court from using reasonable employment skills tests to filter out unqualified job applicants, use as a first pass filter to qualify applicants for a second step. This is why jobs that should not really require a college degree, such as journalism, computer programming, or working as a chef, are reserved for college grads. This drives more people into college than should be going. If demand for college was lower, colleges would have to compete for students and costs would be lower. But I don't really have a good answer, except that we encourage more community colleges and alternative learning solutions and let universities that are too expensive go out of business.
- K. Gonzalez came to the US because the economy sucked so bad where Gonzalez came from that the job situation was worse there for its own citizens than it was for illegal aliens in the US. Gonzalez wanted to go to Berkeley because there is no such university in his or her own country. This is not a problem with the US but with Gonzalez' native country, which lacks basic requirements for a free market including a respect for and rule of law, inviolable property rights, and real choice between different political parties at the ballot box. This problem needs to be fixed by a transformative leader in Gonzalez' own country. Perhaps if Gonzalez is smart enough, and learns enough from his conservative friends and their role models among the American founders, he could go back to that country and become such a leader.
- When it comes to paying for Berkeley, this is a minor problem. All Gonzalez needs to do is find a sympathetic and highly successful legal immigrant who came to the US from his country, and convince that person to contribute the $5,000 per semester that Gonzalez needs. Maybe the owner of the jewelry shop could be just such a sponsor, or maybe they go to church with one. Stop looking for a solution from government. Look for a solution from the private sector.