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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 Arkansas134,000
First-Generation Immigrant Students6,000
Second-Generation Immigrant Students11,000
International Students5,680

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.

The U.S. is home to more than 408,000 undocumented students enrolled in higher education. In their pursuit of higher education, undocumented students actively ready themselves to fill critical skill shortages and become better positioned to support their families, communities, and the U.S. economy.

Undocumented Students in Higher Education616
DACA-Eligible Students in Higher Education231
Undocumented Students Graduating High School Each Year<1,000

Note: Undocumented students are a sub-group of first-generation students.

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 Education5,680
Economic Contributions of International Students in the State$146.6 million
Jobs Supported by International Students in the State947
Optional Practical Training (OPT) Participants788

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 Arkansas145,762
Immigrant Share of Total Population4.8%
Undocumented Immigrants in State57,735

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 STEM Workers Who Are First-Generation Immigrants13.3%
First-Generation Immigrant Faculty and Staff in Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools3,092
Share of First-Generation Immigrants With a Postsecondary Credential72%

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

    Limited to DACA: Policies provide the state’s DACA recipients with access to in-state tuition in at least some public institutions.

  • Professional & Occupational Licensure Workforce Entry & Eligibility

    Limited: Policies allow individuals with work authorization, such as DACA recipients, to obtain occupational licensure in one or more 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

Arkansas provides eligible DACA recipients with access to in-state tuition and professional and occupational licensure.

Arkansas does not provide undocumented residents with access to in-state tuition, state financial aid, or driver licenses and state identification.

In-State Tuition

Arkansas House Bill (H.B.) 1684, signed into law in April 2019, allows the state’s DACA recipients who meet certain requirements to pay the in-state tuition rate in all the state’s public colleges and universities. These requirements include:

  1. Residing in Arkansas for at least three (3) years at the time the student applies for admission to a state-supported institution of higher education; and
  2. Graduated from a public or private high school in state or received a high school equivalency diploma in Arkansas.

Undocumented students without DACA are not eligible for in-state tuition in Arkansas.

Refugee In-State Tuition: Arkansas does not appear to have state policies that expand access to in-state tuition to the state’s refugee students. 

State Financial Aid

Arkansas does not appear to have policies regarding access to state financial aid for undocumented students, including DACA recipients.

Additional Financial Aid

TheDream.US is a national organization that offers scholarships to DACA and undocumented students attending eligible postsecondary institutions across the country. In Arkansas, the following institution is a TheDream.US Partner College:

  • Arkansas Tech University.

In addition, undocumented and DACA students may be eligible for an out-of-state scholarship to attend the following institutions:

  • Christian Brothers University
  • Delaware State University
  • Eastern Connecticut State University
  • Trinity Washington University (Women’s College)
  • Dominican University
Professional & Occupational Licensure

Arkansas provides eligible DACA recipients with access to professional and occupational licensure.

Arkansas House Bill (H.B.) 1735, signed into law on April 19, 2021, allows all occupational and professional licensing entities in the state to grant occupational and professional licenses to undocumented individuals with valid work authorization, including DACA recipients, who have fulfilled all other licensure requirements needed to practice.

In addition, Arkansas House Bill (H.B) 1594, signed into law on April 1, 2021, allows the state’s Division of Elementary and Secondary Education to grant teaching licenses to DACA recipients with valid work authorization who have fulfilled all other teaching licensure requirements.

Prior to HB 1735, Arkansas House Bill (H.B.) 1552, signed into law on April 10, 2019, authorized the Arkansas State Board of Nursing to grant nursing licenses to DACA recipients with valid work authorization who have fulfilled all other necessary nursing licensure requirements.

Arkansas Professional Licensure Requirements & Business Registration

To learn more about professional/occupational licensure requirements, review TheDream.US & Immigrant Finance Resource guide here

To learn more about state business and tax registration requirements, review TheDream.US & Immigrant Finance Resource guide here. 

The information in these guides is based on outreach to the state’s specific licensing boards and each state’s business and tax agencies from April to July 2023 and is subject to change. To get up to date information on requirements, individuals should verify with the appropriate state agency. 

Driver Licenses

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

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


The following narratives highlight stories of immigrant, refugee, and international students, alumni, and scholars, including in their own words or as shared publicly.

  • Narrative

    Alumni Narrative: Amit

    Dr. Amit Sapra came to the U.S. from India to pursue his medical residency at the University of Arkansas.

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Effective Practices and State Resources

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

  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • Research

    Report: Higher Education and Success for Undocumented Students Start with 9 Key Criteria

    Higher Education is the key to achieving social & economic mobility in the U.S. The Education Trust analyzed 9 criteria in the 15 states with the largest shares of undocumented college students to determine whether state policies are helping or hurting undocumented students’ ability to access & complete college.

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