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 work force, higher education and efforts to reduce racial and economic inequality.
A new study released on Thursday found that more than 5.3 million students, or nearly 30 percent of all students enrolled in colleges and universities in 2018, hailed from immigrant families, up from 20 percent in 2000. The population of so-called immigrant-origin students grew much more than that of U.S.-born students of parents also born in the United States, accounting for 58 percent of the increase in the total number of students in higher education during that period.
These students, most of them nonwhite, are the offspring of Indians who came to study in the United States and stayed; the children of Latin Americans who crossed the border for blue-collar jobs; and some whose families fled civil wars around the world as refugees.
“In higher education, we are producing and training the future work force. That future work force 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.