What Does It Mean to Be Undocumented?

There are a few ways that someone can become undocumented:

  • Entered the U.S. legally and immigration status has since expired
  • Entered the U.S. without inspection
  • Submitted immigration application/petition is denied and continued to remain in the U.S.

Most undocumented students have:

  • Lived in the United States most of their lives
  • Attended attended elementary, middle, and high school in the United States
  • Currently lack a way to become legal residents or citizens of the United States

The recent data indicates that:

  • In 2014, there were roughly 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
  • In 2010, there were over 2.2 million undocumented students (meaning people of college age or younger) in the country.
  • It is estimated that only 5 to 10% of undocumented high school graduates go on to college.
  • There were an estimated 135,013 undocumented students in Texas public schools in the 2004-05 academic school year.

Although Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals has provided new opportunities, it is not a legal status and there is still no specific process for many undocumented students to legalize their immigration status.

Undocumented students may feel that they do not have the same economic, social, and educational opportunities their peers. At UT Austin, there are advocates in the International Student & Scholar Services office and the University Leadership Initiative (ULI) working to create a more supportive community. There are resources available to help make the best of students' time in college and organizations such as ULI are working to empower undocumented youth to achieve their full potential.

For more updated statistics, go to the Pew Center and Center of Migration Studies


Undocumented Students and Higher Education

Federal law does not prohibit states from providing in-state tuition to undocumented students. Currently, at least 17 states have passed legislation allowing undocumented graduates of state high schools to pay in-state tuition for colleges and universities. These states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington.

Currently, only about 5-10% of undocumented young people who graduate from high school go on to college, compared with about 75% of their classmates (National Immigration Law Center).

Tuition Equity Map (UWD)


Texas Legislation

Texas House Bill 1403, state legislation passed in 2001, enabled students, including those who were undocumented, to qualify as Texas residents and pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in the state. Texas residents also are eligible to receive state financial aid. In-state tuition is much lower than non-resident tuition and has allowed thousands of immigrants in Texas access to education. In 2011, over 16,000 students attended college under HB1403. 75% of HB1403 students are at community colleges and 25% are at 4-year institutions.

In 2005, the Texas Legislature approved Senate Bill 1528, which helped clarify the benefits offered under House Bill 1403.

To qualify under SB1528, a student must meet the following 4 criteria:

  1. Graduate from a public or private high school, or receive a GED, in Texas;
  2. Reside in Texas for at least the 3 years leading up to high school graduation or receiving a GED;
  3. Reside in Texas for the 12 consecutive months right before the semester the student is enrolling in college; and
  4. Provide the institution an affidavit stating that they will file an application to become a U.S. permanent resident as soon as they are eligible to do so.

Immigrant students who do not meet the above requirements but have filed an I-485 and have received a Notice of Action as a response from USCIS, may also be eligible to receive in-state tuition if they have resided in Texas for at least 12 months.