Removing Barriers to Higher Education for Undocumented Students

Zenen Jaimes Pérez
December 24, 2014

For undocumented students, access to higher ed is important because educational attainment is often necessary for legal status and citizenship. Yet laws and college practices often make access difficult. This report from the Center for American Progress' Generation Progress initiative looks at legal and structural barriers to higher education, why this matters and how policymakers can clear the path to a brighter future for thousands of young, eager students and for the country as a whole.

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report coverEach year, millions of students graduate from American high schools. Counted among that throng of proud graduates are about 65,000 undocumented students. Unlike for their classmates, however, this moment of achievement for undocumented graduates is muted by the facts that their path to higher education remains difficult at best. Access to higher education for undocumented students is especially important because the pathways to legalization in immigration reform have been closely linked with education attainment, but undocumented students have to navigate a complex web of federal, state, and postsecondary institution policies in order to achieve a postsecondary education.

Undocumented students in all states are still prohibited from accessing all forms of federal education benefits that make up a large percentage of how students finance their postsecondary education. Besides tuition-equity laws, undocumented students face structural barriers to higher education, such as a lack of adequate mentoring, limited information on eligibility from postsecondary institutions, and a lack of continued financing for tuition and other living costs. The fact that they are too often locked out of colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher education is a loss not only for them but for the country as well. This lack of access to higher education means that potential entrepreneurs, highly skilled workers, and middle-class consumers and taxpayers will not be there to grow our economy. It is up to policymakers to unblock the path to a brighter future for thousands of young, eager students and for the country as a whole.

Read the full article and report on the Generation Progress website.