Over the past decade, higher education has faced steep declines in enrollment at all but the most competitive of colleges. Driven by myriad forces — a drop in the college-age population, rising costs, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a comparatively attractive labor market — students are enrolling at rates that worry college administrators across the nation. Immigrant-origin students, however, provide a demographic beacon of hope that has largely gone unrecognized. It’s time to take stock of their demographic significance and the human capital they bring.
Immigrant-origin youth — those with at least one parent born outside of the United States — are the fastest-growing group of students in higher education today. New data estimates revealed at the recent Higher Education Pathways to Immigration: Why it Matters Summit indicate they make up a stunning 31 percent of all college students across the United States — a 58 percent increase from 2000 to 2018. The majority (84 percent) of these students are citizens either by birth (68 percent) or through naturalization (16 percent).