This national page integrates student data, demographics, and economic contributions and highlights resources to better support the country’s undocumented, immigrant-origin, and international students in higher education.
Immigrant and International Students in Higher Education
The U.S. has a strong legacy of welcoming immigrant and international students. First- and second-generation immigrant and international students make up one out of every three students enrolled in higher education in the U.S. Immigrant and international students help strengthen America’s higher education community, driving an increase in overall enrollment figures.
|All Students in Higher Education in the U.S.||19,646,000|
|First-Generation Immigrant Students
|Second-Generation Immigrant Students||3,614,000|
Note: Undocumented Students are a sub-group of first-generation immigrant students. First-generation immigrants do not include international students on a visa.
Learn more about state-specific information by selecting a state in the search tool below.
Immigrant-Origin Students in Higher Education
Immigrant-origin students represent a diverse and growing community. Immigrant-origin students accounted in 2018 for 5.3 million students, or 28% of all students, in higher education. More than 80% of all immigrant-origin students in higher education are people of color. Immigrant-origin students drove almost 60% of the growth in higher education students between 2000 and 2018.
Immigrant-origin students constitute first-and-second generation immigrants in the U.S. First-generation immigrants were born abroad and immigrated to the U.S. to live. Second-generation immigrants are U.S.-born individuals with at least one immigrant parent.
|Immigrant-Origin Students in Higher Education||5,316,000|
|First-Generation Immigrant Students||1,701,000|
|Second-Generation Immigrant Students||3,614,000|
Undocumented Students in the U.S.
The U.S. is home to more than 427,000 undocumented students, including DACA recipients, enrolled in higher education. Undocumented students are a heterogeneous community, representing the broad range of immigrants in the U.S.
|Undocumented Students in Higher Education||427,345|
|DACA-Eligible Students in Higher Education||181,624|
|Non-DACA Eligible Students in Higher Education||245,721|
|Undocumented Students Graduating High School Each Year||98,000|
Note: Undocumented students are a sub-group of first-generation students.
International Students in the U.S.
International students comprise about 5% of all students in higher education, and about 12% of students at the graduate level. International students contribute to the education of all students through their global perspective. International students also provide economic and social contributions to their schools and local communities. Enrollment of international students is expected to decrease, in part as a result of federal administrative policy changes that make it more difficult for international students to come to the U.S.
|International Students in Higher Education||914,095|
|Economic Contributions of International Students in the U.S.||$28.4 billion|
|Jobs Supported by International Students in the U.S.||306,308|
|Optional Practical Training (OPT) Participants||223,539|
Source: NAFSA: Association of International Educators
All Immigrants in the U.S.
Immigrant residents in the U.S., including undocumented and DACA-eligible residents, play an important role in the country’s economy, contributing spending power, paying federal, state, and local taxes, and driving innovation and the creation of new businesses.
|All Immigrant Residents||44,788,044|
|Total Spending Power||$1.3 trillion|
|Federal Tax Contributions||$330.7 billion|
|State and Local Tax Contributions||$161.7 billion|
|Employees at Immigrant-Owned Firms||7,975,310|
|Undocumented Residents (Includes DACA-Eligible Residents)||10,315,559|
|Total Spending Power||$214.8 billion|
|Federal Tax Contributions||$18.9 billion|
|State and Local Tax Contributions||$11.7 billion|
|Total Spending Power||$20.2 billion|
|Federal Tax Contributions||$3.4 billion|
|State and Local Tax Contributions||$2.7 billion|
Immigrants Fill Critical Career & Skills Needs
Higher education helps prepare all students, including immigrant students, to fill critical career and skills needs in the U.S.
|Critical Careers and Skills|
|Share of Nurses Who Are First-Generation Immigrants||15.2%|
|Share of Health Aides Who Are First-Generation Immigrants||25.9%|
|Workers in Pharmacies and Drug Stores Who Are Immigrants||142,619 (15.6%)|
|Workers in the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Industry Who Are First-Generation Immigrants||132,307 (24.8%)|
|Number of DACA-Eligible Workers in Healthcare||57,465|
|Share of STEM Workers Who Are First-Generation Immigrants||22.9%|
|First-Generation Immigrant Staff in Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools||892,382|
Spotlight on reports, fact sheets, policy briefs, explainers, and other resources at the national level.
Expanding Refugee Access to In-state Tuition
We have identified five states, California, Colorado, Oregon, Virginia and Washington, that have passed legislation allowing refugee students to access in-state tuition.Continue Reading
Briefing – University Sponsorship of Refugee Students: Initiative on Increasing U.S. Education Pathways for Refugee Students
A briefing held on December 2, 2021 to launch University Sponsorship of Refugee Students: Initiative on Increasing U.S. Education Pathways for Refugee Students.Continue Reading
How Will An University Sponsorship Program Be Funded?
This chart outlines the costs and potential funders for a university sponsorship program for refugee students, which will include the Implementing Organization (I.O.), learning costs on campus, and wraparound support costs.Continue Reading