Toolkit | Access to Postsecondary Education

Toolkit | Access to Postsecondary Education



Undocumented Youth Comprise a Small Segment of the Student Population

Reliable nationwide and state estimates of college students who are undocumented are difficult to obtain, since most institutions do not maintain data on these students. Any estimates are not easily compared, since the sources do not use uniform methods. Research generally concludes that the number of undocumented students who could benefit from tuition equity laws or policies represent a small fraction of the student bodies at state postsecondary institutions. This is not surprising, since over 80 percent of the children of undocumented immigrants are U.S. citizens. These students typically are eligible to pay in-state tuition rates and to qualify for state financial aid, if otherwise eligible. Moreover, the majority of undocumented immigrants remain concentrated in a few traditional immigrant-receiving states.

Three of the four states with the largest number of undocumented immigrants (California, New York, and Texas) already permit students to qualify for in-state tuition, regardless of their status. Even with these laws in place, the number of undocumented students in postsecondary education institutions in these states is small. For immigrant students from low- and middle-income families, getting to college is an uphill battle.

Children of Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States

As Growth Stalls, Unauthorized Immigrant Population Becomes More Settled (Jeffrey S. Passel, D’Vera Cohn, Jens Manuel Krogstad, and Ana Gonzalez-Barrera, Pew Research Center, September 2014).

  • The number of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States has stabilized since 2009. Among the 10.4 million unauthorized adults in the U.S., a shrinking share have been in the country for less than five years; a rising share have lived in the U.S. for a decade or more—62% in 2012, compared with 35% in 2000. About a fifth (21%) had been in the U.S. for two decades or more as of 2012.
  • In 2012, 4 million, or 38% of adults, lived with their U.S.-born children, either minors or adults. About three-quarters of unauthorized parents residing with their U.S.-born children in 2012—3 million—had lived in the U.S. for 10 years or more.
  • In 2012, there were 775,000 unauthorized children under age 18, and 4.5 million U.S.-born children living with at least one unauthorized parent. The number of unauthorized immigrant children has declined in recent years.

High School Students and Graduates Who Are Undocumented

In-State Tuition for Non-Citizen Resident Texans: What You Need to Know (Center for Public Policy Priorities, 2015).

  • In 2013, 24,770 non–U.S. citizen resident students out of 1,303,684 total students (1.9 percent of total students) paid in-state tuition under Texas’s tuition equity law (HB 1403).

Diploma, Please: Promoting Educational Attainment for DACA- and Potential DREAM Act-Eligible Youth (Margie McHugh, Migration Policy Institute, September 2014).

  • “[E]xplores the challenges to educational attainment facing three key subgroups of the DACA program: those under age 19, those age 19 and over without a high school diploma or equivalent, and those age 19 and older with only a high school diploma or equivalent.”
  • “[P]rovides a demographic snapshot of these groups and examines the impacts of DACA’s unprecedented educational requirement on potential beneficiaries and the programs that serve them.”
  • “[O]ffers recommendations for actions that policymakers, education and training program managers, and other stakeholders can take to support the educational success of these youth.”

Fact Sheet: An Overview of College-Bound Undocumented Students (Educators for Fair Consideration, January 2012).

  • This fact sheet provides information under these headings: “The Definition of an Undocumented Student”; “The Undocumented Population”; “Challenges that Undocumented Students Face in Pursuing a College Education”; “Current Federal and State Legislation Affecting Undocumented Students”; “Resources for Additional Information.”