Can Illegal Immigrants Go to College?

No federal law in the United States prevents illegal immigrants from obtaining admission at a college or university. The CollegeBoard cautions, however, that individual institutions may apply policies that prohibit undocumented students from applying for admission. Furthermore, financial aid applicants must prove citizenship to obtain certain student loans and scholarships.

The Supreme Court's Plyler v. Doe decision protects the right of illegal immigrants to obtain an education through the 12th grade, but the court's decision contains no provisions for higher education. The subject of illegal immigrants studying in U.S universities remains highly controversial, with some states enacting legislation that favors traditional students over illegal immigrants. Others have laws in place to protect the rights of immigrants, legal and otherwise. In some instances, the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals memorandum provides limited protection for those who wish to pursue academic studies.

Although most states have no laws against attendance itself, many illegal immigrants struggle to pay tuition fees. The state and federal funding options that most traditional students explore are unavailable to undocumented students, and illegal immigrants may find it difficult to fulfill requirements for in-state tuition. Many prominent organizations, such as TheDream.US, work to make private educational funding available to illegal immigrants.