Logo for: President's Alliance Higher Education & Immigration

The Higher Ed Immigration Portal provides a profile of undocumented, international, and other immigrant-origin students who are enrolled in higher education in the United States. The data is derived from both partner and contributor organizations and publicly available datasets. This page provides an overview of the sources used to populate the project’s national- and state-level data. 

Immigrant-Origin Students in Higher Education 

The central source for immigrant-origin students in U.S. higher education is the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) October supplement. For the purposes of the portal and in order to construct a profile of immigrant-origin students who are in the United States for reasons other than temporary study, the data excludes international students who are in the U.S. on non-immigrant student visas. To do so, this analysis first used two additional data sources to estimate the number of international students, and then subtracted them from the population of first-generation immigrant students. You can learn more in the Immigrant-Origin Students in U.S. Higher Education report’s methodology section. 

CPS estimates were somewhat lower than what the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported for postsecondary enrollment in Fall 2000 and 2018. To account for these differences, CPS-based estimates were adjusted to match the official enrollment data from NCES.

International Students in Higher Education 

International student enrollment data comes from the Open Doors report published by the Institute of International Education. This report is developed in partnership with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State.

Data on the economic benefits of international students in the U.S. and jobs created come from NAFSA: Association of International Educators. You can learn more here

The source of data on Optional Practical Training (OPT) participants by state comes from an analysis conducted by the Niskanen Center Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request The complete list of OPT participants by state can be found here

The “Immigrant-Origin and International Students As Share of All Students Enrolled in Public and Private Colleges and Universities, 2018” graph in the National Data page contains both immigrant-origin and international student numbers. The data for immigrant-origin students comes from the Immigrant-Origin Students in U.S. Higher Education report. The data for international students comes from the 2018 Open Doors report by the Institute of International Education (IIE). 

Undocumented Students in Higher Education

The data on undocumented students in U.S. higher education is derived from the 2019 American Community Survey (ACS). New American Economy (NAE) applied the methodological approach outlined by Harvard University economist George Borjas to study the subset of the immigrant population that is likely to be undocumented in postsecondary education. NAE then used a set of criteria to identify potential international students, based on factors such as school attendance, grade level, age, length of stay in the United States, and hours worked, and excluded them from the group to arrive at estimates about undocumented students. 

NAE applied the guidelines for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to restrict the data further, determining the subset of DACA-eligible students in higher education. You can learn more in the report’s methodology section here. 

All Students in Higher Education 

The source for the total number of students in higher education at the national and state level is the “Total fall enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by state or jurisdiction: Selected years, 1970 through 2018” datasheet from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). NCES has not yet released state-level data for 2019. 

All Immigrants in the U.S. and Immigrant Workers Filling Critical Skills Needs

Analysis and estimates produced by New American Economy (NAE) using various publicly available datasets. These include microdata from the American Community Survey (ACS), downloaded from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) database. As of January 20, 2021, the data on Map the Impact reflects analysis of the 2019 ACS microdata for national and state pages and analysis of the 2018 ACS microdata for metro area pages. You can learn more here. 

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