Undocumented Students in Higher Education (Updated March 2021)

How Many Undocumented Students are in U.S. Colleges and Universities, and Who Are They?

The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration partnered with New American Economy to release an updated analysis of how many undocumented students are pursuing higher education in the United States: Undocumented Students in Higher Education: How Many Students are in U.S. Colleges and Universities, and Who Are They? (Updated March 2021)The new estimates show there are more than 427,000 undocumented students enrolled in postsecondary education, representing about two percent of all postsecondary students. Of these students, 181,000 are DACA-eligible (they either hold DACA or would have been eligible for DACA). The report includes the states with the largest number of enrollments, demographic profile of undocumented students, enrollment in public and private institutions, and undergraduate and graduate-level enrollment.

Comparing last year’s report to this year’s estimates, the undocumented student population decreased by 5.1 percent, and the DACA-eligible student population decreased by 16.2 percent.  These declines in undocumented and DACA-eligible student enrollment mirror national trends in migration in the United States.

Among the report’s top findings are:

  • More than 427,000 (approximately 2% of all students) undocumented students are enrolled in higher education;
  • 181,000 of these individuals hold or are eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA);
  • The top five states with undocumented students in higher education are California (94,000), Texas (58,000), Florida (40,000), New York (25,000), and Illinois (18,000);
  • 81% of undocumented students are enrolled in public institutions while 19% attend private postsecondary institutions;
  • 90% of undocumented students are enrolled in undergraduate programs, and 10% percent of students are enrolled in graduate-level programs; and,
  • Undocumented students are a diverse population in higher education, with Hispanic students accounting for 48.5% of undocumented students, compared to 24.2% for Asian students, and 12.5% for Black students.