One in every 50 students enrolled in U.S. higher education is undocumented. Yet, many undocumented students face barriers in the form of federal and state policies that inhibit accessing and obtaining a college degree. This includes state policies restricting these students from enrolling in higher education institutions; accessing in-state tuition, state financial aid, professional and commercial licenses, driver’s licenses, state health care, food and housing assistance; and difficulties obtaining work authorization and employment — not to mention being under constant threat of deportation. Undocumented students, including DACA recipients, are also ineligible for federal financial aid.
With that in mind, Ed Trust researchers analyzed nine criteria in the 15 states with the largest shares of undocumented college students — Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington — to determine whether state policies are helping or hurting undocumented students’ ability to attend college and how access and success for this underserved student population could be improved.
To complement this report, we have also created The Higher Education Access and Success tool, an interactive resource designed to provide state and federal policymakers, advocates, educators, and others with detailed information about state policies on college access and success for undocumented students. The tool displays information for the nine criteria in those 15 states with the largest shares of undocumented college students.
State policies for all nine criteria are categorized by the amount of access they provide for undocumented students in higher education. See “Defining Level of Access” below to view how categories are defined. Also note that the term “all undocumented students” refers to both DACA recipients and those without DACA.
Choose a State to View Stats:
Information on the eligibility of undocumented individuals for the first criterion was gathered from the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) Map on State Laws & Policies on Access to Higher Education for Immigrants.
Information for the second through fifth criteria were gathered from the Presidents’ Alliance for Higher Education and Immigration, Higher Ed Immigration Portal.
We obtained information for criteria six through eight from health, housing, and food assistance agencies in each state.
Lastly, information for criterion nine was obtained from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Immigration Laws and Current State Immigration Legislation Database and we confirmed this information with immigration advocacy agencies in each state.
9 Key Criteria for Undocumented Student Higher Education Access and Success:
- Can undocumented students enroll in the state’s public two- and four-year higher education institutions?
- Do undocumented students have access to in-state resident tuition?
- Do undocumented students have access to state financial aid?
- Do undocumented students have access to professional or commercial licenses?
- Do undocumented students have access to a driver’s license?
- Do undocumented students have access to state-level health-care programs?
- Do undocumented students have access to state-level food programs?
- Do undocumented students have access to state-level housing-assistance programs?
- Does the state have sanctuary policies limiting collaboration between local entities and federal immigration authorities?
Defining Level of Access
|CRITERIA||LEVEL OF ACCESS||DEFINITION|
|All criteria, except Sanctuary Policies||Comprehensive||
State policies provide access to criteria for all undocumented students, regardless of DACA status.
State policies provide access to criteria for some undocumented students and under certain conditions.
|Prohibitive||State policies prohibit all undocumented students from accessing criteria.|
|Sanctuary Policies||Collaboration Limited||
State policies limit collaboration between local entities and federal immigration authorities.
State policies allow collaboration between local entities and federal immigration authorities.