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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 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 New York1,250,000
First-Generation Immigrant Students163,000
Second-Generation Immigrant Students326,000
International Students106,894

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 Education25,296
DACA-Eligible Students in Higher Education7,932
Non-DACA Eligible Students in Higher Education17,364
Undocumented Students Graduating High School Each Year4,000

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 Education106,894
Economic Contributions of International Students in the State$3.8 billion
Jobs Supported by International Students in the State38,986
Optional Practical Training (OPT) Participants24,611

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 New York4,356,713
Immigrant Share of Total Population22.4%
Undocumented Immigrants in State676,105
DACA-Eligible Residents in State63,216
Spending Power of DACA-Eligible Residents$1.411 billion
DACA-Eligible Residents Federal Tax Contributions$301.3 million
DACA-Eligible Residents State and Local Tax Contributions$232.4 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 Immigrants25.4%
Share of Nurses Who Are First-Generation Immigrants29.3%
Share of Health Aides Who Are First-Generation Immigrants55.7%
DACA recipients in STEM or Health Professions2,495
DACA recipients in Education (K-12, Higher Education, Education Industry)2,741
First-Generation Immigrant Faculty and Staff in Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools81,947

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 (NAE) and international students (NAFSA).

State Policies

Evaluating Access for Undocumented 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.

  • 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

    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

    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

New York provides eligible undocumented residents, including DACA recipients, with access to in-state tuition, state financial aid, and driver licenses. DACA recipients can also access certain professional and occupational licenses.

In-State Tuition

New York Assembly Bill (A.B.) 9612, signed into law on June 25, 2002, provides eligible undocumented students, including DACA recipients, with access to in-state tuition. Students must meet certain requirements to access in-state tuition, including:

  1. Attend at least two years of high school in New York;
  2. Graduate from a New York high school or receive a GED;
  3. Apply for attendance at an institution within 5 years of receiving a diploma;
  4. Show proof of residence in New York; and,
  5. File an affidavit declaring that the student will file for legal status when able.

The State University of New York’s (SUNY) policy on Residency, Establishment of for Tuition Purposes Section C states that “students admitted as refugees, or granted asylum, or granted withholding of deportation or removal” have access to in-state tuition.

State Financial Aid

New York Assembly Bill (A.B.) 782, signed into law on April 12, 2019, provides the state’s undocumented students, including DACA recipients, with access to state financial aid.

Undocumented students must meet the same criteria required for in-state tuition under Assembly Bill (A.B) 9612 to access state financial aid.

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 New York, the following institutions are TheDream.US Partner Colleges:

  • Baruch College;
  • Borough of Manhattan Community College;
  • Bronx Community College;
  • Brooklyn College;
  • College of Staten Island;
  • Hostos Community College;
  • Hunter College;
  • John Jay College of Criminal Justice;
  • Kingsborough Community College;
  • LaGuardia Community College;
  • Lehman College;
  • Medgar Evers College;
  • New York City College of Technology;
  • Queens College;
  • Queensborough Community College;
  • Stella and Charles Guttman Community College;
  • The City College of New York; and,
  • The City University of New York.
Professional & Occupational Licensure

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) Board of Regents adopted regulations in May 2016 to allow DACA recipients with valid work authorization to apply for teaching certifications and 55 other professional licenses granted by the Department.

New York’s Supreme Court ruled in June 2015 in Matter of Vargas that DACA recipients may be admitted to the state bar to practice law.

Driver Licenses

Undocumented immigrants living in New York are eligible to obtain a driver’s license. Assembly Bill (A.B) 3675, signed into law on June 17, 2019, allows the state’s undocumented residents to obtain a driver license if they provide proof of identity, age, and a Social Security Number (SSN) or an affidavit stating they have not been issued an SSN, among other requirements. The bill includes confidentiality and privacy provisions.

DACA recipients in New York are allowed to obtain a driver’s license or state identification card.

Proposed Policies

New York is considering legislation that would affirmatively extend access to professional and occupational licensure to undocumented residents.

Professional & Occupational Licensure

New York Assembly Bill (A.B) 1952, introduced on January 13, 2021, and New York Senate Bill (S.B.) 3046, introduced on January 27, 2021, are companion bills that would provide all New York residents with access to professional, occupational, commercial, or business licenses, permits, certificates, or related registrations regardless of an applicant’s citizenship or immigration status.

New York Assembly Bill (A.B) 6328, introduced on March 16, 2021, prohibits an employer or licensing agency to refuse to employ or to bar from employing an individual because of the individual’s citizenship or immigration status, as well as age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, and other considerations.


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: Sana

    Sana Mustafa graduated from Bard College after obtaining asylum in the U.S., and became the Associate Director of Partnership and Engagement at Asylum Access.

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  • Narrative

    Alumni Narrative: Mariam

    Mariam Assefa became Executive Director and CEO of WES, championing the economic advancement of refugees and immigrants.

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  • Narrative

    Alumni Narrative: Sen

    Sen Li came to the U.S. from China in 2013 to pursue his master’s degree in biomedical engineering. He enlisted in the American military as a combat medical soldier.

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Effective Practices and State Resources

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

  • 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.

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  • Effective Practice

    Walking the Talk: How University Communities Can Foster Opportunities for Refugee Students

    Case examples of higher education initiatives that alleviate barriers to higher education for refugee students.

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  • Effective Practice

    Promising Practices: Dutchess Community College (Consortium for Undocumented Students)

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