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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 North Carolina549,000
First-Generation Immigrant Students29,000
Second-Generation Immigrant Students67,000
International Students23,488

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 Education6,166
DACA-Eligible Students in Higher Education2,497
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 Education23,488
Economic Contributions of International Students in the State$816.1 million
Jobs Supported by International Students in the State8,215
Optional Practical Training (OPT) Participants3,715

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 Carolina871,765
Immigrant Share of Total Population8.3%
Undocumented Immigrants in State304,068
DACA-Eligible Residents in State28,357
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 Immigrants17.3%
Share of Nurses Who Are First-Generation Immigrants8.6%
First-Generation Immigrant Faculty and Staff in Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools20,487
Share of First-Generation Immigrants With a Postsecondary Credential54%

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

    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.

Enacted Policies

North Carolina prohibits undocumented residents, including DACA recipients, from accessing in-state tuition and state financial aid.

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.

In-State Tuition

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.

State Financial Aid

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
Professional & Occupational Licensure

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.

Driver Licenses

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.


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 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.

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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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