New Report: More Than 5.3 Million Immigrant-Origin Students Enrolled in Colleges and Universities

Nearly thirty percent of all students in higher education are immigrants or children of immigrants

October 15, 2020
Contact: Jose Magaña-Salgado (

Washington, D.C.—Today, the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration released a new Presidents’ Alliance-commissioned and Migration Policy Institute-produced report, Immigrant-Origin Students in U.S. Higher Education, demonstrating that in 2018 more than 5.3 million students, or 28% of all students enrolled in colleges and universities, were immigrants or the children of immigrants. The report’s findings reveal the growing proportion of first and second generation immigrant students in postsecondary education, the diversity of these students, and  their importance for future U.S. labor growth. The report’s findings show the direct impacts and real-life consequences that immigration policies can have on millions of students and families. 

You can view the full report here. The Presidents’ Alliance and partners will also host a briefing on the new report today at 3pm et. To register and learn more about the briefing here

Among the report’s key findings:

  • The United States is home to 5.3 million immigrant-origin students enrolled in U.S. higher education institutions. First-generation immigrants, individuals born abroad who immigrated to the U.S, account for 1.7 million students. Second-generation immigrants, persons born in the U.S. to one or more immigrants parents, account for 3.6 million students. 
  • The proportion of immigrant-origin students as a share of all students in higher education in the United States was 28% in 2018, up from 20% in 2000. Immigrant-origin students accounted for 60% of the increase in all post-secondary education students between 2000 to 2018.  
  • Immigrant-origin students are a heterogeneous population. The report finds that 63% of Latinx/Hispanic students are first- or second-generation immigrants, as are 85% of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students and  24% of Black students.
  • In nine states, immigrant-origin students make up more than 30% of all students in higher education  (CA, FL, HI, MA, NJ, NV, NY, TX, WA). There are 32 states with at least 20,000 immigrant-origin students in higher education. 
  • First-generation immigrant students are more likely to pursue graduate or professional degrees than second- or third-generation immigrant students. 
  • This estimate of first-generation immigrant students does not include (F-1) international students, estimated in 2018 at approximately 5.5% of all students in higher education. With international students, immigrant origin and foreign-born students in higher education constituted a third of all postsecondary students in 2018. 

Miriam Feldblum, Executive Director, Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, stated: “The report confirms the importance of first and second generation immigrant students for the future of the United States. They are a racially diverse and growing community in higher education. It’s paramount for higher education institutions to reach out to immigrant-origin students. The report underscores how immigration policies, like immigration bans, the exclusion of federal aid to undocumented/DACA students or TPS recipients, or changes to the public charge rule, negatively impact millions of students and their families, including their ability to afford postsecondary education and persist through school. Higher education must help address the distinctive immigration-related obstacles that immigrant students and their families face. When immigrant-origin students succeed, colleges, universities, local communities, and the U.S. economy succeed alongside them.”

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The non-partisan, nonprofit Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration brings together college and university leaders dedicated to increasing public understanding of how immigration policies and practices impact our students, campuses and communities, and supporting policies that create a welcoming environment for undocumented, immigrant, and international students. The Alliance is composed of approximately 500 presidents and chancellors of public and private colleges and universities, representing over five million students in 42 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico.