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Undocumented College Students in US Colleges

Data of Undocumented Students

In the vast landscape of American higher education, there exists a group of resilient individuals who have managed to pursue their dreams against all odds. They are undocumented college students, navigating the complexities of an education system that often overlooks their unique struggles and achievements. According to a new report from the American Immigration Council and the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, the number of faculty college students residing in the U.S. without legal permission declined by 4.2% in 2021, marking a significant shift in this marginalized community.

Undocumented College Students: The Decline and the Why

The report sheds light on the factors behind the 4.2% decrease in undocumented college students from 427,000 in 2019 to 408,000 in 2021. Researchers attribute this decline to pandemic- and economic-related enrollment losses, as well as the ongoing legal challenges to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA has been a lifeline for certain immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, providing them protection from deportation and enabling them to pursue education and work opportunities.

DACA and Its Impact on Undocumented Students

Despite the benefits of DACA, the number of students eligible for or enrolled in the program has declined by 41,000 since 2019, totaling 141,000 in 2021. If the program’s eligibility remains restricted, researchers anticipate a further decrease in enrollment. Many undocumented students arrived in the U.S. at a young age, but they may not be eligible for DACA protection, leading to uncertainties in their academic journey.

Demographics of Undocumented College Students in 2021

Undocumented college students represent a diverse tapestry of cultures, backgrounds, and aspirations. According to the report, nearly half of these students (46%) identify as Hispanic, with 27% being Asian American Pacific Islander, 14% Black, and 10% White. The report’s findings are based on disaggregated 2021 census data, offering a glimpse into the vibrant diversity of the undocumented student population.

Distribution of Undocumented Students Among Educational Institutions

While more than three-quarters of undocumented students attend public institutions, with a significant proportion in community colleges, they face numerous obstacles on their academic journey. Not all states provide equal access to in-state tuition and financial assistance for undocumented students, affecting their ability to pursue higher education.

Challenges Faced by Undocumented Students Ineligible for DACA

Challenges Faced by Undocumented Students Ineligible for DACA highlight the difficulties experienced by undocumented college students who are not eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. These students arrived in the U.S. at a young age but do not meet the specific DACA criteria. As a result, they lack legal protections from deportation and face uncertainties in their pursuit of education and future opportunities. Without the benefits of DACA, these students encounter barriers hindering their academic and professional aspirations.

The Texas Model: A Beacon of Hope

Texas stands as an exemplar in supporting undocumented college students. In 2001, it became the first state to offer in-state tuition and limited financial aid to this group, providing hope for those who aspire to higher education. Despite legal challenges, Texas has persisted in its commitment to making higher education accessible to all, regardless of immigration status.

The Uncertain Fate of DACA

DACA has faced numerous legal challenges throughout its existence. In 2021, a federal judge in Texas declared the program illegal and halted new applications, though existing enrollees could retain its protections. If a lawsuit against DACA reaches the conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court, its future hangs in the balance. The report stresses the urgency of passing legislation to provide Dreamers with a permanent legislative solution, granting them the freedom to work and study without fear of deportation, and offering a pathway to permanent residency and U.S. citizenship.

Advocating for a Permanent Legislative Fix for Dreamers

Advocating for a Permanent Legislative Fix for Dreamers refers to the urgent call for Congress to pass legislation that provides a lasting solution for undocumented college students, also known as Dreamers. This fix aims to grant them permanent protection, allowing them to work and study without fear of deportation, while offering a pathway to obtain permanent residency and U.S. citizenship. By securing a legislative fix, Dreamers can pursue their dreams and contribute to society without the constant uncertainty and legal challenges they currently face.

The Socioeconomic Impact of Undocumented College Students

Undocumented students, or “Dreamers,” as they are often called, contribute significantly to the economy and the workforce. Despite the challenges they face, their economic contributions and potential make them indispensable to the country’s future. The report emphasizes that reducing barriers to higher education for this group would not only benefit them but also lead to lower high school dropout rates and higher student achievement.


How many college students in the US are undocumented?

Approximately 408,000 undocumented college students were in the US in 2021, a 4.2% decrease from 2019

Can illegal immigrants go to college in Texas

Yes, New York allows undocumented immigrants to attend college and access in-state tuition under certain conditions.


The journey of undocumented college students in the U.S. is a tale of resilience, determination, and hope. Despite facing daunting obstacles, they remain steadfast in their pursuit of education and a brighter future. Their stories of courage and triumph need to be acknowledged, celebrated, and supported.

As a nation, embracing the potential of these Dreamers and providing them with equal opportunities to education will yield immeasurable benefits for all. The call to pass legislation that offers a permanent solution for DACA recipients echoes throughout the report, urging Congress to create a pathway to citizenship for these individuals who have become an integral part of the American fabric.

By acknowledging the humanity and aspirations of undocumented college students, we can take a significant step towards creating an inclusive and compassionate society that values education as a fundamental right for all, regardless of borders. Let us join hands to pave the way for a future where dreams know no boundaries, and opportunities are boundless for everyone.

Rizwan Ahmed
Rizwan Ahmed
AuditStudent.com, founded by Rizwan Ahmed, is an educational platform dedicated to empowering students and professionals in the all fields of life. Discover comprehensive resources and expert guidance to excel in the dynamic education industry.


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