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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 Massachusetts449,000
First-Generation Immigrant Students56,000
Second-Generation Immigrant Students113,000
International Students79,751

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 Education6,663
DACA-Eligible Students in Higher Education1,320
Undocumented Students Graduating High School Each Year3,000

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 Education79,751
Economic Contributions of International Students in the State$3.6 billion
Jobs Supported by International Students in the State34,930
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 Massachusetts1,227,816
Immigrant Share of Total Population17.6%
Undocumented Immigrants in State139,061
DACA-Eligible Residents in State9,178
Spending Power of DACA-Eligible Residents$243.0 million
DACA-Eligible Residents Federal Tax Contributions$47.0 million
DACA-Eligible Residents State and Local Tax Contributions$29.7 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 Immigrants28.5%
Share of Nurses Who Are First-Generation Immigrants13.7%
Share of Health Aides Who Are First-Generation Immigrants36.5%
First-Generation Immigrant Faculty and Staff in Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools45,403
Share of First-Generation Immigrants With a Postsecondary Credential44%

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

    Comprehensive Access: Policies provide statewide access to in-state tuition and some state financial aid or scholarships for the state's resident DACA recipients and undocumented students.

  • 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 Undocumented students with access to in-state tuition and state financial aid. 

Massachusetts provides eligible undocumented residents, including DACA recipients with access to driver licenses and state identification.

Massachusetts does not appear to provide undocumented residents access occupational and professional licensure. 

 

In-State Tuition

The “High School Completers” Tuition Equity Law went into effect on July 1, 2023. The law expanded access to in-state tuition rates and state financial aid to undocumented students at the state’s public colleges and universities. 

To be eligible, the student must: 

  1. Be admitted to a public institution of higher education in Massachusetts; and
  2. Have attended at least three academic years in a Massachusetts high school; and
  3. Have graduated from high school in Massachusetts or have received the equivalent of a high school diploma in Massachusetts; and
  4. Applied for military selective service, if eligible; and
  5. Provide either a valid Social Security Number, or documentation reflecting issuance of an individual taxpayer identification number, or documentation of registration with selective service, if applicable, or if the individual is not a citizen or legal permanent resident of the United States, provide a completed affidavit stating that the individual will file an application to become a citizen or legal permanent resident within 120 days after the individual becomes eligible to do so. 

While the law is in the implementation phase, you can learn more at the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education website

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 provides eligible undocumented students, including DACA recipients, with access to state financial aid. The FY 2024 funding (section 11 of chapter 28 of the Acts of 2023) was signed into law on August 9th, 2023, and provides undocumented students with access to state-based financial aid. 

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. 

Eligibility: 

  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.

Additional Financial Aid

TheDream.US is a national organization that offers scholarships to students with or without DACA or TPS attending eligible postsecondary institutions across the country. In Massachusetts, the following institution is a TheDream.US Partner College:

  • Salem State University (Public)
  • University of Massachusetts Boston (Public)
Professional & Occupational Licensure

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

Massachusetts 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

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.

Narratives

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.

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  • Narrative

    Student Narrative: Luis Ursula

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

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  • 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.

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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

    Undocumented Students in Higher Education

    The new estimates show there are more than 408, 000 undocumented students enrolled in postsecondary education, representing about 1.9 percent of all postsecondary students. This estimate represents a decrease of 4.2 percent from 2019, when 427,000 undocumented students were enrolled.

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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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