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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 South Carolina262,000
First-Generation Immigrant Students6,000
Second-Generation Immigrant Students24,000
International Students6,173

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 Graduating High School Each Year1,000

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 Education6,173
Economic Contributions of International Students in the State$181.6 million
Jobs Supported by International Students in the State1,455
Optional Practical Training (OPT) Participants721

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 South Carolina275,500
Immigrant Share of Total Population5.2%
Undocumented Immigrants in State72,700

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 Immigrants12.00%
First-Generation Immigrant Faculty and Staff in Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools7,642
Share of First-Generation Immigrants With a Postsecondary Credential14%

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

    Prohibitive Enrollment: Policies actively bar enrollment in all or certain public institutions for the state’s undocumented students, but may still allow DACA recipients to enroll.

  • 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

South Carolina prohibits undocumented residents from enrolling in the state’s public colleges and universities, and from accessing in-state tuition, state financial aid, and driver licenses and state identification.

DACA recipients are eligible to enroll in public colleges and universities, but they cannot access in-state tuition or state financial aid.

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

In-State Tuition

South Carolina House Bill (H.B.) 4400, signed into law on June 4, 2008, prohibits undocumented students from enrolling in the state’s public colleges and universities, and from receiving certain education benefits, such as in-state tuition, scholarships, and grants.

The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education determined that DACA recipients are eligible to enroll in the state’s institutions of higher education but cannot access in-state tuition or state financial aid.

Refugee In-State Tuition: According to the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education Residency Regulation policy  refugees are not eligible for in-state tuition until they obtain permanent resident status. Residency prior to obtaining lawful permanent resident status (LPR) does not count towards the 12-month residency requirement. 


State Financial Aid

South Carolina House Bill (H.B.) 3620, signed into law on June 29, 2007, specifies that undocumented students cannot receive tuition assistance, scholarships, or any form of state financial aid for higher education.

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 DACA and undocumented students attending eligible postsecondary institutions across the country. In South Carolina, undocumented and DACA students 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

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

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

DACA recipients in South Carolina 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

    The Lost Economic Impact of DACA Eligible Students in South Carolina

    In South Carolina, students with DACA may enroll in higher education, but are required to pay out-of-state tuition, limiting their ability to afford higher education (Roth, 2017). This means a child could have lived in South Carolina since the age of 6 months, graduated high school in the state, worked in the state, but must go out of the state to attend college because of affordability. That may mean loss of potential workforce talent going to another state.

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  • 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

    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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