Immigration Status and Higher Education: Evidence from a Large Urban University

Do recent national, state, and university policies improve the educational outcomes of undocumented students at the City University of New York (CUNY)?

This study examines the effects of two policies intended to increase the college persistence of undocumented youth: 1) the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order, which allows youth who arrived before their 16th birthday to work legally on a temporary basis and provides temporary relief from deportation, and 2) recent changes to New York State Department of Education licensing laws, which allow eligible DACA recipients to obtain occupational licenses if they meet all other requirements for licensure except for documentation status. Hsin, Reed, and colleagues will investigate how these policies affect college outcomes of undocumented students, as well as how institutional policies and practices at the City University of New York improve these students’ experiences. The team will draw on administrative data for over 600,000 students enrolled at CUNY between 1991 and 2015, in addition to campus-level measures and a sample of 20 CUNY staff and faculty. They will match undocumented students to their peers with legal status in order to estimate the effect of status on students’ enrollment, dropout, major, choices of major, and degree attainment. To ascertain how undocumented students understand their immigration status and its effect on their lives, the team will also sample and interview 50 current and former undocumented students, 20 family members, and 15 campus and community leaders.

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