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 Tennessee 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 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 Tennessee||322,000|
|First-Generation Immigrant Students||6,000|
|Second-Generation Immigrant Students||21,000|
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.
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 Education||6,867|
|Economic Contributions of International Students in the State||$216.9 million|
|Jobs Supported by International Students in the State||2,568|
|Optional Practical Training (OPT) Participants||1,428|
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 Tennessee||376,180|
|Immigrant Share of Total Population||5.5%|
|Undocumented Immigrants in State||134,452|
|DACA-Eligible Residents in State||10,289|
|Spending Power of DACA-Eligible Residents||$138.4 million|
|DACA-Eligible Residents Federal Tax Contributions||$16.5 million|
|DACA-Eligible Residents State and Local Tax Contributions||$16.3 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||12.3%|
|Share of Nurses Who Are First-Generation Immigrants||4.9%|
|Share of Health Aides Who Are First-Generation Immigrants||3.6%|
|First-Generation Immigrant Faculty and Staff in Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools||9,914|
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).
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
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.
Tennessee prohibits undocumented residents, including DACA recipients, from accessing in-state tuition. The state does not appear to have legislation that extends occupational and professional licensure to undocumented individuals, including DACA recipients.
Tennessee effectively requires the state’s undocumented students, including DACA recipients, to pay out-of-state tuition.
The Tennessee Eligibility Verification for Entitlements Act (EVEA), signed into law in 2012, requires students to verify their citizenship or lawful presence to access in-state tuition. Students who cannot verify U.S. citizenship or lawful presence are required to pay out-of-state tuition. Tennessee’s undocumented students, including DACA recipients, are not considered to satisfy the EVEA’s “lawful presence” requirement.
The Tennessee Board of Regents, the largest system of higher education in Tennessee, also notes that undocumented students living in the state cannot “establish domicile in Tennessee” to access in-state tuition.
Tennessee 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 DACA and undocumented students attending eligible postsecondary institutions across the country. In Tennessee, the following institution is a TheDream.US Partner College:
- Christian Brothers University.
A number of postsecondary institutions in Tennessee also provide personal, academic, and financial support for undocumented students and DACA recipients.
Tennessee does not appear to have statewide legislation that affirmatively extends occupational and professional licensure to undocumented individuals, including DACA recipients.
The Tennessee Department of Health requires professional and occupational licensure applicants to state whether they are a U.S Citizen or have other immigration status. It does not appear to extend eligibility to undocumented individuals.
Undocumented immigrants in Tennessee do not have access to a driver license or state identification card.
DACA recipients in Tennessee 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.
Rethinking Tuition for Undocumented Students Through ITAs
The report examines whether inter-state tuition agreements can expand access to higher education for undocumented students.Continue Reading
Higher Ed Guide to Tuition, Financial Aid, & Other Funding Opportunities for Undocumented Students
An overview of in-state tuition, state aid, and other funding opportunities for undocumented students.Continue Reading