Logo for: President's Alliance Higher Education & Immigration

State Data

Higher education in the U.S. benefits from the participation of immigrant and international students. First and second-generation individuals comprise 28% 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 Massachusetts500,000
First-Generation Immigrant Students67,000
Second-Generation Immigrant Students76,000
International Students71,026

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 427,000 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 Education11,632
Undocumented Students Graduating High School Each Year1,000

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

International students comprise only 5 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 Education71,026
Economic Contributions of International Students in the State$3.1 billion
Jobs Supported by International Students in the State31,420
Optional Practical Training (OPT) Participants10,604

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 Massachusetts1,191,110
Immigrant Share of Total Population17.3%
Undocumented Immigrants in State153,364
DACA-Eligible Residents in State12,546
Spending Power of DACA-Eligible Residents$335.3 million
DACA-Eligible Residents Federal Tax Contributions$68.6 million
DACA-Eligible Residents State and Local Tax Contributions$41.5 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 STEM Workers Who Are First-Generation Immigrants29.1%
Share of Nurses Who Are First-Generation Immigrants15.2%
Share of Health Aides Who Are First-Generation Immigrants36.2%
First-Generation Immigrant Faculty and Staff in Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools46,009
Share of First-Generation Immigrants With a Postsecondary Credential57%

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

    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

    Accessible: Policies provide the state’s undocumented residents with access to driver licenses and/or state identification regardless of their immigration status, but these are not REAL ID compliant.

Enacted Policies

Massachusetts provides eligible DACA recipients with access to in-state tuition.

Massachusetts does not appear to provide undocumented residents access to state financial aid, or occupational and professional licensure. 


In-State Tuition

The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education issued a memorandum on November 21, 2012, stating that DACA recipients are eligible for in-state tuition at all public colleges and universities in the state. These individuals must:

  1. Meet the same requirements for establishing residency in Massachusetts are required of a United State citizen; and,
  2. Provide appropriate United State Citizenship and Immigration Services documentation to verify they are “lawful immigrants.

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

Refugee In-State Tuition: According to the Board of Higher Education rules and regulations, Part 3.2.a.3 non-citizens who are in (or who are eligible to apply and who have applied for) refugee/asylum status are likewise eligible to be considered for Massachusetts residency for tuition purposes provided that they meet the same requirements for establishing residency in Massachusetts as are required of a United States citizen.

State Financial Aid

Massachusetts does not provide in-state tuition for all undocumented students, but on March 31, 2023 Boston Massachusetts’ Mayor Michelle WU announced an expansion of the city’s Tuition-Free Community College (TFCC) Plan to cover all city residents regardless of age, income or immigration status. Students who are undocumented, DACA students, or have TPS are eligible to apply. 


  1. Be a Boston resident.
  2. Enroll in an associate degree or short-term certificate program at a partner college.
  3. Complete the FAFSA. (Students who are undocumented, DACA students, or have TPS, do not need to complete the FAFSA) 

Six local community colleges are part of the program:

  • Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology, 
  • Bunker Hill Community College, 
  • Massasoit Community College,
  • MassBay Community College, 
  • Roxbury Community College, 
  • and Urban College of Boston.
Professional & Occupational Licensure

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


Driver Licenses

Massachusetts has become the 17th state to allow undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses. Massachusetts Senate Bill (S.B.) 2061, also known as the Work and Family Mobility Act reached a final vote in the Senate of 32–8 which overrode a veto by Governor Charlie Baker. This new law goes into effect on July 1, 2023 and permits people who are unable to provide proof of lawful presence, or who are ineligible for a social security number, to apply for a Massachusetts’ driver license. They must meet all other qualifications for licensure and provide satisfactory proof to the registrar of identity, date of birth and Massachusetts residency.

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

Proposed Policies

Massachusetts is considering legislation that would expand access to in-state tuition and state financial aid to all eligible state residents, including undocumented students.

In-State Tuition

Massachusetts Senate bill (S.) 823, introduced by State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz in March 2021, would expand access to in-state tuition and state financial aid to all state residents, including undocumented students, if they meet certain requirements. To qualify, students must attend a Massachusetts high school for at least three years, graduate from a Massachusetts high school or attain the equivalent, and sign an affidavit stating that the individual will file an application to become a permanent resident at the earliest opportunity the individual is eligible to do so. The bill would not provide in-state tuition or state financial aid to students at the University of Massachusetts Medical School or the University of Massachusetts School of Law.

House bill (H.) 1352, introduced by State Representative Michael Moran (D-MA), is a companion bill to S. 823.

Driver License

Massachusetts has become the 17th state to allow undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses. Massachusetts Senate Bill (S.B.) 2061, also known as the Work and Family Mobility Act goes into effect on July 1, 2023.


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

  • Narrative

    Student Narrative: Emerson Loaiza

    Emerson Loaiza-Gonzalez from Colombia is now a human resources associate, helping new hires feel welcomed regardless of their background and differences.

    Continue Reading
  • Narrative

    Student Narrative: Luis Ursula

    Luis Ursula is a research associate with Moderna in Massachusetts, helping drive change in the field of health care.

    Continue Reading
  • Narrative

    Alumni Narrative: Kavita

    Kavita Ramdas came to the U.S. from India as an international student, becoming a leader on gender and women's rights.

    Continue Reading

Effective Practices and State Resources

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

  • 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.

    Continue Reading
  • Research

    Report: The Post-DACA Generation is Here

    A new report finds that an estimated 100,000 undocumented students will graduate from high school in 2022, with most of them not eligible for DACA. The new FWD.us report, published in May 2022, The Post-DACA Generation is Here, explains how DACA’s unavailability impacts undocumented youth in the U.S.

    Continue Reading
  • Research

    Undocumented Students in Higher Education (Updated March 2021)

    More than 427,000 undocumented students in the U.S. are enrolled in higher education, including 181,000 DACA-eligible individuals.

    Continue Reading