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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 Kentucky237,000
First-Generation Immigrant Students17,000
Second-Generation Immigrant Students14,000
International Students9,765

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 Education3,031
DACA-Eligible Students in Higher Education228
Undocumented Students Graduating High School Each Year1,000

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 Education9,765
Economic Contributions of International Students in the State$308.9 million
Jobs Supported by International Students in the State1,854
Optional Practical Training (OPT) Participants627

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 Kentucky181,707
Immigrant Share of Total Population4.0%
Undocumented Immigrants in State42,741

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 Immigrants7.8%
First-Generation Immigrant Faculty and Staff in Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools5,004
Share of First-Generation Immigrants With a Postsecondary Credential62%

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

    Accessible: Policies provide statewide access to in-state tuition for the state's undocumented students, including DACA recipients.

  • Professional & Occupational Licensure Workforce Entry & Eligibility

    No State Policy: No policies identified that actively expand access to occupational licensure for individuals who do not have legal immigration status.

  • 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

Kentucky provides eligible undocumented residents, including DACA recipients, with access to in-state tuition. The state does not appear to have legislation that extends occupational and professional licensure to undocumented individuals, including DACA recipients.

Kentucky does not provide undocumented residents with access to state financial aid or driver licenses and state identification. However, displaced students might be eligible for certain scholarships in fiscal year (FY) 2022-2023.


In-State Tuition

Kentucky’s Residency Regulatory 13 KAR 2:045, which went into effect in July 2015, allows undocumented students living in Kentucky, including DACA recipients, to access in-state tuition.

Under the policy, undocumented students must graduate from a Kentucky high school to access in-state tuition.

Refugee In-State Tuition: Section 8 of 13 Ky. Admin. Regs. 2:045 provides: “A person holding a permanent residency visa or classified as a political refugee shall establish domicile and residency in the same manner as another person.”

State Financial Aid

Kentucky does not appear to have policies regarding access to state financial aid for undocumented students.

Kentucky’s General Assembly passed House Bill 1 in 2022, which provides $10 million in funding for an “Innovative Scholarship Pilot Program” to develop and implement a pilot project to provide college access and promote undergraduate student success for displaced students and students participating in international exchange programs. The bill directs the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority to work in coordination with the Council on Postsecondary Education to establish the pilot program for fiscal year 2022-2023. The pilot project will support scholarships for displaced students, scholarships to promote international exchange, and a state-level community of practice. Under the program, a “displaced student” is defined as a traditional or non-traditional aged student who has received U.S. asylum (asylees), submitted a U.S. asylum application (asylum-seeker), is a resettled refugee, or is in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status (TPS), humanitarian parole, or through a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV).
Professional & Occupational Licensure

Kentucky does not appear to have legislation that affirmatively extends occupational and professional licensure to undocumented individuals, including DACA recipients.

Kentucky 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 Kentucky do not have access to a driver license or state identification card.

DACA recipients in Kentucky 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.

  • 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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