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State Data

Higher education in the U.S. benefits from the participation of immigrant and international students. First and second-generation individuals comprise 31% of all students enrolled in higher education, a growing figure that underscores the importance of immigrant-origin students in the classroom and our workforce.

All Students in Higher Education in Alabama304,000
First-Generation Immigrant Students8,000
Second-Generation Immigrant Students16,000
International Students8,138

Note: First-generation immigrants were born abroad and immigrated to the U.S. Second-generation immigrants are U.S.-born individuals with at least one immigrant parent. First-generation immigrants include undocumented immigrants. First-generation immigrants do not include international students on a visa.

International students comprise only 4 percent of all students in higher education, but provide significant economic, academic and cultural contributions that enrich learning, enrollment and funding opportunities for American students.

International Students in Higher Education8,138
Economic Contributions of International Students in the State$262.3 million
Jobs Supported by International Students in the State2,190
Optional Practical Training (OPT) Participants659

Note: Optional Practical Training participants are a subgroup of international students.

Immigrant residents, including undocumented immigrants and DACA-eligible residents, play an important role in the state's economy, contributing spending power and paying federal, state, and local taxes.

All Immigrant Residents in Alabama172,782
Immigrant Share of Total Population3.5%
Undocumented Immigrants in State55,833
DACA-Eligible Residents in State5,074
Spending Power of DACA-Eligible Residents$64.3 million
DACA-Eligible Residents Federal Tax Contributions$8.5 million
DACA-Eligible Residents State and Local Tax Contributions$7.5 million

Note: DACA-eligible residents are a sub-group of undocumented immigrant residents.

Higher education helps prepare all students, including immigrant and international students, to fill critical career and skills needs.

State Immigrant Workers Fill Critical Skills Needs
Share of Nurses Who Are First-Generation Immigrants2.6%
First-Generation Immigrant Faculty and Staff in Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools7,492
Share of First-Generation Immigrants With a Postsecondary Credential34%

Note: First-generation immigrants were born abroad and immigrated to the U.S.

You can find additional state data, including by congressional district, in the following resources by immigrant population (AIC) and international students (NAFSA).

State Policies

Evaluating Access for Undocumented & Refugee Students

State policies in four key areas – in state tuition, state financial aid, professional and occupational licensure, and driver licenses – play an important role in expanding access to higher education and workforce development for undocumented students. The section below on in-state tuition also includes policies related to refugee students.

  • In-State Tuition & State Financial Aid Access and Affordability

    Prohibitive Enrollment: Policies actively bar enrollment in all or certain public institutions for the state’s undocumented students, but may still allow DACA recipients to enroll.

  • Professional & Occupational Licensure Workforce Entry & Eligibility

    Restrictive: Policies actively prohibit individuals without legal status from accessing occupational licensure in most or all of the professions that require licensure.

  • Driver Licenses & Identification Mobility

    Restrictive: Policies do not provide the state's undocumented residents with access to driver licenses and state identification, but DACA recipients can still obtain a driver's license or state identification card.

Enacted Policies

Alabama prohibits undocumented residents from enrolling in the state’s public colleges and universities, and from accessing in-state tuition, state financial aid, professional and occupational licenses, and driver licenses.

DACA recipients might be eligible to enroll and access in-state tuition in certain public colleges and universities.

In-State Tuition

Alabama House Bill (H.B.) 56, signed into law in June 2011, prohibits undocumented students from enrolling in the state’s public colleges and universities, and from receiving certain education benefits, such as in-state tuition.

However, DACA recipients might be eligible to enroll in certain Alabama public colleges and universities and access in-state tuition, including in the following institutions:

  • Auburn Community Colleges,
  • Auburn University in Auburn and Montgomery,
  • Troy University in Dothan and Troy,
  • The University of Alabama in Huntsville, Birmingham, and Tuscaloosa,
  • University of Montevallo.

Refugee In-State Tuition: Alabama does not appear to have state policies that expand access to in-state tuition to the state’s refugee students. Policies may vary by institution. 

State Financial Aid

Alabama House Bill (H.B.) 56 prohibits the state’s undocumented students from accessing certain education benefits, including state financial aid.

Professional and Occupational Licensure

Alabama House Bill (H.B.) 56 prohibits the state’s undocumented immigrants from obtaining professional and occupational licensure.

Alabama Professional Licensure Requirements & Business Registration

To learn more about the licensure & business registration requirements, review TheDream.US & Immigrant Finance Resource GuideThe information in the guide is based on outreach to the state’s specific licensing boards from April to July 2023 and is subject to change. To get up to date information on licensure application requirements, individuals should verify this information with the licensing board.

Driver Licenses

Undocumented immigrants in Alabama do not have access to a driver license or state identification card.

DACA recipients in Alabama are allowed to obtain a driver license or state identification card.

Effective Practices and State Resources

Spotlight on effective practices and policy, research, or community-based state resources.

  • Policy

    Ending DACA Would Limit Access to Higher Education in Ten States

    Ending DACA would potentially block thousands of current DACA recipients and DACA-eligible individuals from either enrolling in public institutions or being eligible for in-state tuition in ten states.

    Continue Reading
  • Research

    Immigrant-Origin Students in U.S. Higher Education (Updated August 2023)

    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.

    Continue Reading
  • Research

    Report: The Post-DACA Generation is Here

    A new report finds that an estimated 120,000 undocumented students will graduate from high school in 2023, with most of them not eligible for DACA. The new FWD.us report, published in May 2023, The Post-DACA Generation is Here, explains how DACA’s unavailability impacts undocumented youth in the U.S.

    Continue Reading