Undocumented Immigrants in Higher Education: Assessing the Relationship between State Tuition Policies and College Enrollment

Robert Bozick, RAND Corporation
Trey Miller, RAND Corporation
Matheu Kaneshiro, RAND Corporation

This paper examines the effects of policies that extend or deny in-state tuition to children of undocumented immigrants. Drawing upon repeated cross-sections of 18-22 year olds in the Current Population Survey across 1997-2010, we assess changes in college enrollment rates among foreign-born non-citizens (FBNCs) – a proxy for the undocumented population. We find that the enactment of policies that extend in-state tuition to undocumented youth was associated with a six percent increase in college enrollment among FBNCs from Mexico. This effect was not evident among FBNCs from Latin American, Asian, or European countries. States that enacted policies denying undocumented youth from receiving in-state tuition saw no changes in enrollment among FBNCs from any country/region. Despite concerns that tax-paying citizens might be “crowded out” from slots in college, we find that the extension of in-state tuition to undocumented youth had no effect on rates of postsecondary enrollment among the native-born population.

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Presented in Session 118: Educational Achievement and Attainment