Immigrant-Origin Students are Key to the Future of U.S. Higher Education  

For Immediate Release: August 2, 2023
Contact: Jason Koh,

Immigrant-Origin Students are Key to the Future of U.S. Higher Education  

WASHINGTON D.C.The Presidents’ Alliance, in partnership with the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) and the American Immigration Council (AIC), has released new estimates and enrollment data of immigrant-origin students, including undocumented students, in higher education. The state and national pages on the Higher Ed Immigration Portal have also been updated with the latest data. The joint commentary with MPI and report with AIC provide crucial insights into new trends, including the robust growth of immigrant-origin student populations, their diversity, and workforce contributions. Among the findings, immigrant-origin students now account for thirty-one percent of all domestic students in higher education. The new estimates also confirm the diminishing number of students with DACA on college campuses, as those students without DACA now account for approximately two-thirds of all undocumented students in higher education.

“As a former Director of Undergraduate Admissions and a current Black-DACAmented individual, I know first-hand the potential of undocumented students to have a sizable impact in their communities.” said Felecia Russell, Director of the Higher Ed Immigration Portal at the Presidents’ Alliance. “The new data should prompt higher education institutions to stay committed to expand access to higher education for all students, especially those from marginalized and historically underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds.”

According to the report, Undocumented Students in Higher Education: How Many Students Are in U.S. Colleges and Universities, and Who Are They, there are over 408,000 undocumented students in higher education, with a growing proportion pursuing graduate and professional degrees. Over a third of undocumented graduate students have undergraduate degrees in STEM and healthcare-related fields—and acquired the skills to fill critical workforce gaps across the country.

“I think the new data tells an important story: In this new era of admissions, institutions need to take into account the assets, talents, and experiences of immigrant-origin students, including undocumented students, to better recruit and support a diverse, talented student population.” said Miriam Feldblum, Executive Director at the Presidents’ Alliance. “As colleges and universities seek to unleash innovation, train future workforces, and address critical skills shortages, they need to recognize the crucial contributions of immigration and immigrant populations.”

The commentary, Investing in the Future: Higher Ed Should Give Greater Focus to Growing Immigrant-Origin Student Population, also provides insights into data that shows immigrant-origin students (first generation defined by being born abroad to non-citizen parents and second generation defined by being born in the U.S. with at least one immigrant parent) as the fastest growing group of students in U.S. higher education—driving 80% of all domestic enrollment growth at colleges and universities from 2000 to 2021.

[Immigrant-origin students] play a particularly important role in the science, technology, engineering, and math sector of the economy.” said Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, Chancellor at University of Massachusetts, Boston. “Approximately a quarter of all STEM workers in our country and well over a quarter of all physicians and surgeons practicing in the United States are of immigrant origin.

“As the son of immigrants heading Queens College in the world’s borough, I know how important it is for our shared future that we welcome and support people of all backgrounds.” said Frank Wu, President of Queens College, City University of New York. “Colleges and universities must play a role in expanding access to higher education, the engine of the American Dream.”

The report and commentary also highlights a number of comprehensive policy recommendations to improve access to higher education and provide support systems for immigrant-origin and undocumented student populations.

The Presidents’ Alliance will host a webinar on Wednesday, August, 2nd at 2 PM ET, with the American Immigration Council and Migration Policy Institute to examine the findings of the reports and commentary. This webinar will feature Jeanne Batalova, Senior Policy Analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, Leani García Torres, Chief of Staff at the American Immigration Council, Nathan Grawe, Professor of Economics at Carleton College, Felecia Russell, Director of the Higher Ed Immigration Portal, Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts, Boston, Yves Salomon-Fernandez, incoming President of Urban College of Boston, Frank Wu, President of Queens College, City University of New York, and Miriam Feldblum, Executive Director at the Presidents’ Alliance. Register for the webinar here:


The nonpartisan, nonprofit Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration brings college and university presidents and chancellors together on the immigration issues that impact higher education, our students, campuses, communities and nation. We work to support undocumented, international and refugee students, and advance forward-looking immigration policies and practices at the federal level, in our states, and across our college campuses. The Alliance is composed of 550+ college and university presidents and chancellors of public and private colleges and universities, enrolling over five million students in 43 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico.