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The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration commissioned a Migration Policy Institute-produced report, Immigrant-Origin Students in U.S. Higher Education, demonstrating that, in 2021, more than 5.6 million students, or 31% of all students enrolled in colleges and universities, were immigrants or the children of immigrants. The report’s findings reveal the growing proportion of first and second generation immigrant students in postsecondary education, the diversity of these students, and their importance for future U.S. labor growth. The report’s findings also show the direct impacts and real-life consequences that immigration policies can have on millions of students and families.

Read the commentary, Investing in the Future: Higher Ed Should Give Greater Focus to Growing Immigrant-Origin Population, authored by Jeanne Batalova (MPI) and Miriam Feldblum (Presidents’ Alliance) here.

To download U.S. and state-level data on enrollment and other characteristics for first- and second-generation students, click here.

Top Findings:

  • 31% (5.6M) of all domestic students enrolled in higher education are of immigrant origin, with 3.7 million second-generation immigrant students and 1.9 million first-generation immigrant students.
  • Immigrant-origin students are the fastest growing group of students in U.S. higher education, driving 80% of all domestic enrollment growth at colleges and universities from 2000 to 2021.
  • Immigrant-origin students are incredibly diverse, reflecting the diversity of immigrants in the U.S. and contributing significantly to the diversity on campuses. 81% of first and second-generation immigrant students are students of color compared to 30% of students who are third-generation or higher (born in the U.S. from U.S.-born families).
    • Eighty-eight percent of Asian college students are of immigrant origin (37% 1st gen & 51% 2nd gen)
    • Sixty-eight percent of Latino college students are of immigrant origin (18% 1st gen & 50% 2nd gen)
    • Twenty-eight percent of all Black students in U.S. higher education are first- or second-generation immigrants (12% 1st gen & 16% 2nd gen)
    • Ten percent of White college students are of immigrant origin (4% 1st gen & 6% 2nd gen)
  • Less than half (44%) of first-generation immigrant students are naturalized U.S. citizens. Fifty-six percent or over one million first-generation immigrant students are non-citizens.  
  • Immigrant-origin students account for a significant percentage of all students in a growing number of states.
    • 54% of all students in higher education in California are of immigrant-origin
    • Immigrant-origin students account between 30% to 47% of all students in 12 other states (TX, NY, FL, IL, NJ, AZ, MA, MD, WA, CT, NV, & HI) and D.C.
    • There are at least 20,000 immigrant-origin students in 32 states

Last Updated: August 2023.

If you want to review the 2020 report, see link here.

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