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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 Pennsylvania681,000
First-Generation Immigrant Students45,000
Second-Generation Immigrant Students67,000
International Students48,593

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 Education7,498
Undocumented Students Graduating High School Each Year4,000

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 Education48,593
Economic Contributions of International Students in the State$2.0 billion
Jobs Supported by International Students in the State21,956
Optional Practical Training (OPT) Participants5,265

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 Pennsylvania995,800
Immigrant Share of Total Population7.7
Undocumented Immigrants in State156,300
DACA-Eligible Residents in State9,300
Spending Power of DACA-Eligible Residents$243.9 million
DACA-Eligible Residents Federal Tax Contributions$44.0 million
DACA-Eligible Residents State and Local Tax Contributions$36.4 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 Immigrants16.7%
Share of Nurses Who Are First-Generation Immigrants7.0%
Share of Health Aides Who Are First-Generation Immigrants18.4%
First-Generation Immigrant Faculty and Staff in Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools35,732
Share of First-Generation Immigrants With a Postsecondary Credential16%

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: Policies provide the state’s undocumented students, including DACA recipients, with access to in-state or reduced tuition in at least some public institutions.

  • 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

    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

Undocumented residents in Pennsylvania, including DACA recipients, can access in-state tuition in at least one public institution. DACA recipients can also obtain a license to practice law.

Pennsylvania does not provide undocumented residents with access to state financial aid or driver licenses and state identification.

In-State Tuition

Pennsylvania does not have statewide policies concerning access to in-state tuition for undocumented students. However, at least one public institution has established tuition equity policies.

Pennsylvania State University extends in-state tuition to the state’s undocumented students, including DACA recipients, if they meet the institution’s residency requirements. The requirements include attending an accredited Pennsylvania high school for at least four years and graduating from an accredited Pennsylvania high school or receiving a Pennsylvania General Educational Development (GED) certificate.

Refugee In-State Tuition: Per 22 Pa. Code §§ 507.3 individual schools have some discretion regarding the determination of domicile for in-state tuition purposes and it creates a rebuttable presumption that non-U.S. citizens are non-domiciled. Individual schools have elaborated on these regulations and many schools grant in-state tuition to refugees who meet the 12-month residency requirement.

State Financial Aid

Pennsylvania does not appear to have policies regarding access to state financial aid for undocumented students.

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 Pennsylvania, the following institutions are TheDream.US Partner Colleges:

  • Holy Family University (Private)


Professional & Occupational Licensure

The Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners passed a rule in 2019 (Rule 202) establishing that DACA recipients can be admitted to the state’s bar and cannot be denied a law license based on their immigration status.

Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania do not have access to a driver license or state identification card.

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

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.

    Continue Reading
  • 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.

    Continue Reading
  • 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.

    Continue Reading