The Catholic University of America

Undocumented Students' Ability to Study in the U.S.

A question that often arises when it comes to university-level study is whether or not undocumented students can be admitted and be enrolled for classes at American colleges and university's. There is no federal law that prevents them from being able to study. Nor are there any federal penalties for colleges and universities that enroll students who may not have legal U.S. immigration status. In July 2008, the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement division wrote a letter essentially confirming the lack of any federal restrictions on this and referring schools to State or local laws to determine whether or not undocumented students could study. While this letter is a response to a very specific inquiry with very specific circumstances, SEVP refers to this letter as guidance.

Although undocumented students may enroll at institutions of higher education, it is important to note that they are not eligible for federal financial aid. Nor are they eligible for any assistantships, fellowships or scholarships that require some sort of service or work from the student because they do not have legal work permission. Some states have declared that undocumented aliens are not eligible for in-state tuition. As a result the cost of a higher education may prevent many undocumented students from enrolling.

Schools and organizations can, however, award true scholarships to undocumented students if they wish, as long as there is no associated service component that would be considered work.

CUA's Policy on Admitting Undocumented Students

The Catholic University of America does not consider immigration status in its decisions to admit students who are otherwise academically qualified. (Refer to the University policy on admitting undocumented students for more information.)

Articles on the subject:

They Can't go Home Again: Undocumented Aliens and Access to U.S. Higher Education by Ellen Badger and Stephen Yale-Loehr

Useful Links/Resources: