Chattanooga Times Free Press
Children from immigrant families in the U. S. are increasingly the face of higher education
An extraordinary demographic shift is sweeping through U.S. university campuses as immigrants and children of immigrants become an ever- larger share of student bodies, with implications for the future of the country’s workforce, higher education and efforts to reduce racial and economic inequality.
A new study released Thursday found that more than 5.3 million students, or nearly 30% of all students enrolled in colleges and universities in 2018, hailed from immigrant families, up from 20% in 2000. The population of so- called immigrantorigin students grew much more than that of U. S.- born students of parents also born in the United States, accounting for 58% of the increase in the total number of students in higher education during that period.
“In higher education, we are producing and training the future workforce. That future workforce has more students from immigrant families than previously understood,” said Miriam Feldblum, executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, a group of college and university officials that commissioned the study from the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.
In California, immigrants or children of immigrants accounted for about half of enrolled students in 2018. In eight states — Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Washington — they represented 30% to 40% of the student body.
An overwhelming majority of immigrant-origin students are U. S. citizens or legal residents. But they are likely to face barriers and limits on resources that many other students do not.
“Going into the college process, these students themselves or their families may not have a lot of knowledge about navigating college applications and the financial aid process,” said Jeanne Batalova, a senior policy analyst at Migration Policy Institute and the lead author of the report.
As their numbers swell, the students from immigrant families will only become more important to the long-term financial health of U.S. colleges and universities. Even before the coronavirus pandemic threw the operation of colleges and universities into disarray, there was concern about future enrollment amid the country’s falling fertility rate and declining international student enrollment.