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How the Future of Colleges and Universities Is Tied to Immigration Policy and Flows

William Frey’s recent report, Reducing immigration will not stop America’s rising diversity, Census projections show, which analyzes the new census projections for the next 40 years, is a must-read for higher education leaders. Frey’s analysis shows that a reduction in immigration flows will not impede the trend of the United States—and especially college campuses—“becoming more racially and ethnically diverse.” But, it’s his conclusions on the reduction of the under-18 population that should be our focus. Frey’s analysis provides greater urgency in light of Nathan Grawe’s excellent 2018 study, Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education, which outlined future declines in enrollment and the demographic challenges facing many colleges and universities. His analysis underscores why inclusive immigration policy reform is a national necessity and must be a higher education priority.

Robust immigration flows drove population growth in the United States over the past 40 years. As referenced in Grawe’s study, that growth also helped fuel enrollments on our college campuses. In this report, Frey analyses the newly released census projections for four scenarios: (a) the “main” scenario, which “assumes that immigration to the U.S. will follow trends from 2011 to 2015;”(b) a “high immigration” scenario, which “assumes a 50 percent increase in immigration going forward;” (c) “low immigration,” which “assumes a roughly 50 percent decrease;” and (d) “zero immigration,” which “assumes no new immigration to the U.S.”

Frey analyzes how the new projections across the four scenarios, even in the “high” and “main” scenarios, will translate into slower population growth—from a high of 33 percent to a -2 percent decline—in the next 40 years as compared to the higher growth rate of the past 40 years (see Frey’s figures 1 & 2 below). By way of context, Grawe, in his study, assumed the general continuation of immigration flows, akin to the “main” Census scenario.

See full report here.

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