Q&A – How Many Illegal Immigrants Are in College & How Much Are We Paying?

Q&A of the Day – How Many Illegal Immigrants Are in College & How Much Are We Paying for It? 

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.   

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com  

Social: @brianmuddradio 

iHeartRadio: Use the Talkback feature – the microphone button on our station’s page in the iHeart app.    

Today’s Entry: @brianmuddradio got the research on this one?  

Bottom Line: That question was brought about by John Solomon’s post with the story Illegal immigrants in colleges soar to nearly 2% of population, study finds. In the story, Solomon cites a new report from the American Immigration Council which identified 408,000 undocumented students, or 1.9% of total enrolled students, were enrolled in US colleges as of 2021. Another key finding in the report was that most of the undocumented immigrants enrolled in US colleges weren’t DACA eligible. So, if you have illegal immigrants enrolled in colleges who’s paying for it? Also, how many are there in Florida’s colleges?  

The three most populous states have the three highest populations of illegal immigrants enrolled in colleges. There are approximately 83,000 illegals enrolled in California, 59,000 in Texas and 40,000 in Florida. And in fact, Florida’s percentage of undocumented enrollments, at 3.1% of the collegiate population, is the 2nd highest in the country – ahead of California. Florida’s percentage of illegal immigrant college students (when adjusting for DACA-eligible students) as a percentage of the student population is the highest in the country at 2.5%. Given Florida’s strong stance in combating illegal immigration – it might come as a surprise that our colleges are facilitating so much of it. That’s likely due in large part to policies that aren’t in place in Florida.  

The American Immigration Council study dug into the policy differences of states pertaining to undocumented students attending college. There are essentially four buckets of policies: 

  • States that formally have adopted policies allowing for illegal immigrants to use colleges with in-state tuition rates (23), including access to financial aid (17 of the 23). 
  • States that have passed restrictions but allow access (16 including Florida) 
  • States that have banned illegal immigrants from access (3) 
  • States with no formal related policy (8) 

There are about seven different types of laws that exist within those four buckets. That said, Florida’s law is among the least restrictive by way of comparison to other states that have passed restrictions which, along with geography/desirability, likely accounts for why Florida has a disproportionate number of illegal immigrants attending college compared with other states. Florida’s policy doesn’t allow access to state financial aid or scholarships, however there’s not been policy which otherwise restricts access to Florida’s college system. It is worth noting that even in a state which has banned illegal immigrants attending college within the state – Georgia – there were still 12,000 illegal students within the state. It’s an indication that certain schools either have deliberately flouted the state’s law, or at a minimum, have weak admission/enforcement policies in place which are not only violating federal law, but also state law. In breaking down what this means to us (aside from illegal immigrants potentially taking the place of would-be legal students at certain colleges) …  

FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which by the way keeps a daily tally of illegal border crossings on their homepage, currently accounts for over 568,000 illegal immigrants attending colleges across the country at a total taxpayer expense of $2.8 billion to states annually. That means the average illegal immigrant attending college is receiving the equivalent of $4,911 in annual state taxpayer subsidies. Given the size of the illegal immigrant college student population in Florida, the estimated cost to us annually is over $196.4 million.  

It’s an angle of illegal immigration I’ve not covered previously. It’s obviously a significant one. Florida's AG Ashely Moody is right that it’s coming at a significant cost to us. What this exercise also shows is that Florida could and likely should tighten up the laws pertaining to illegal immigrants attending colleges.  

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