In at least 18 states, undocumented students have the opportunity to pay the in-state tuition rate for public colleges and universities, and in four states, these students are able to access state-funded financial aid for higher education.
This is not enough. Undocumented students still face enormous barriers to entering and completing higher education. Nine states still have laws that restrict access to higher education for undocumented students, and Texas is close to repealing its state-level version of the DREAM Act this year. In addition to facing roadblocks at the state level, undocumented students cannot qualify for any federal financial aid for higher education—including Pell Grants, federal loans, and the Federal Work-Study Program. These programs allow millions of students across the country to afford the high and rising cost of tuition. The patchwork of different federal, state, local, and university-specific policies coincides with inadequate information from high schools and postsecondary institutions, high levels of poverty, a fear of sharing immigration status, unanticipated cost increases for higher education, and the need to work to pay tuition—all of which create a situation where hundreds of thousands of undocumented students are left without a clear pathway forward.
A concerted effort by the federal government, states, higher-education advocacy organizations, and individual colleges and universities must push forward and make sure that all students have access to a high-quality and affordable education, regardless of their immigration status.
To learn more about the barriers that undocumented students face in trying to access higher education and how to remove them, read the Center for American Progress report “Removing Barriers to Higher Education for Undocumented Students.”
Zenén Jaimes Pérez is the Senior Policy Analyst for Generation Progress at the Center for American Progress.