This state page integrates student data, economic contributions, state policies, effective practices, and other resources to learn about and better support the state’s undocumented, other immigrant, and international students in higher education.
We classify North Carolina as a Restrictive state in terms of inclusive in-state tuition and state financial aid policies for undocumented students. The Portal tracks state policies for undocumented students on in-state tuition, state financial aid, professional and occupational licensure, and driver licenses.
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 North Carolina||549,000|
|First-Generation Immigrant Students||29,000|
|Second-Generation Immigrant Students||67,000|
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 Education||6,166|
|DACA-Eligible Students in Higher Education||2,497|
|Undocumented Students Graduating High School Each Year||3,000|
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 Education||23,488|
|Economic Contributions of International Students in the State||$816.1 million|
|Jobs Supported by International Students in the State||8,215|
|Optional Practical Training (OPT) Participants||3,715|
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 North Carolina||871,765|
|Immigrant Share of Total Population||8.3%|
|Undocumented Immigrants in State||304,068|
|DACA-Eligible Residents in State||28,357|
|Spending Power of DACA-Eligible Residents||$578.3 million|
|DACA-Eligible Residents Federal Tax Contributions||$76.1 million|
|DACA-Eligible Residents State and Local Tax Contributions||$66.9 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 Immigrants||17.3%|
|Share of Nurses Who Are First-Generation Immigrants||8.6%|
|First-Generation Immigrant Faculty and Staff in Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools||20,487|
|Share of First-Generation Immigrants With a Postsecondary Credential||54%|
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).
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
Restrictive: Policies actively bar access to in-state tuition or state financial aid 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.
North Carolina does not provide undocumented residents with access to driver licenses and state identification. The state does not appear to have statewide legislation that extends occupational and professional licensure to undocumented individuals, including DACA recipients.
North Carolina requires the state’s undocumented students, including DACA recipients, to pay out-of-state tuition. The University of North Carolina System Policy 700.1.4 [G], implemented on November 12, 2004, states that undocumented students in North Carolina are not eligible for in-state tuition. The system encompasses all of the state’s 16 public universities and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.
The North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges Administrative Code 23 N.C.A.C. 02C .0301 also requires the state’s undocumented students to pay out-of-state tuition.
On January 22, 2014, the North Carolina Attorney General’s office issued an advisory letter stating that under federal and state law undocumented students are not eligible for in-state tuition.
Refugee In-State Tuition: Residency Determination states that for refugees a Form I-94 with Refugee stamp; OR EAD Card with Code A-3; OR Unexpired refugee travel doc (Form I-571) is required to receive in-state tuition. The student needs to meet the duration law and domiciliary acts as well as hold an eligible immigration status for 12 months prior to requesting residency.
North Carolina effectively blocks the state’s undocumented students, including DACA recipients, from accessing state financial aid.
The University of North Carolina System Policy 700.1.4 [G] establishes that the state’s undocumented students may not receive state financial aid in the form of a grant or a loan.
Additional Financial Aid
On June 20, 2023 Duke University announced that it will provide full tuition grants for undergraduate student residents of North Carolina and South Carolina whose family incomes are $150k or less. Additionally, for undergraduate students from North Carolina and South Carolina whose family incomes are $65,000 or less, Duke will provide full tuition, plus financial assistance for housing, meals, and some course materials or other campus expenses. DACA and undocumented students admitted to Duke from NC and SC will be among those eligible. The additional assistance will begin in the fall 2023 semester.
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 North Carolina, the following institution is a TheDream.US Partner College:
- Wingate University (Private)
In addition, students with or without DACA or TPS 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
North Carolina does not appear to have statewide legislation that affirmatively extends occupational and professional licensure to undocumented individuals, including DACA recipients.
North Carolina 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.
Undocumented immigrants in North Carolina do not have access to a driver license or state identification card.
DACA recipients in North Carolina are allowed to obtain a driver license or state identification card.
North Carolina is now considering legislation that would expand access to in-state tuition to DACA students at the University of North Carolina constituent institutions and community colleges.
North Carolina Senate Bill (S.B.) 672, introduced on April 7, 2021, would expand access to in-state tuition at the University of North Carolina constituent institutions and community colleges to DACA students if they meet the following requirements:
- Receive a high school diploma from a secondary school or high school within North Carolina or an equivalent;
- Attend North Carolina schools for a minimum of two consecutive years immediately prior to completing high school;
- Is a beneficiary of DACA, and provides documentation to the constituent institution or community college to demonstrate that they are a DACA beneficiary; and
- Satisfy the admission standards for the constituent institution or community college to which they applied and have secured admission and enrolled as a student.
The following narratives highlight stories of immigrant, refugee, and international students, alumni, and scholars, including in their own words or as shared publicly.
Student Narratives: Presidents’ Alliance Dream Summer Fellows
A conversation with two Dream Summer Fellows who have joined the Presidents' Alliance since 2019. Through our partnership, we have hosted fellows who have done outstanding work within our organization and centered the voices of those directly impacted by immigration.Continue Reading
Effective Practices and State Resources
Spotlight on effective practices and policy, research, or community-based state resources.
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.Continue Reading
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.Continue Reading
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.Continue Reading