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United States Immigrant Population and Access to Education
According to the Migration Policy Institute, of the about 40.3 million immigrants in

America, there are an estimated 11.4 million that are unauthorized (2015). With this large
population of immigrants, it seems eminent that they will assimilate into the American culture, if
they haven’t already. Some illegal immigrants have been here for over 20 years, and some their
entire lives. Given that they are here and are growing in number, should the U.S. government be
helping them succeed while living in the United States? According to a speech given by
President Barack Obama at the Booker T. Washington High School graduation in 2011,
education equals success (Roberts, 2011). Therefore, in order for these immigrants to reach
success, should they be receiving an education? All students who live in America have the right
to a K-12 education, regardless of legal status. Should this also be the case for a postgraduate
education, or is would this be an unlawful advantage given to illegal immigrants?
There are a multitude of reasons why one would be in favor of illegal students getting a
higher education. First, it seems inconsistent to let illegal immigrants obtain a k-12 education and
tell them they can go no further. This stunts the growth of their dreams and aspirations which
puts a limit to those who we are educating. The country is letting them go through high school
but not letting them get the education necessary in order to obtain a good job or be able to be an
asset to the country, which causes an uneducated workforce (NCSL, 2015).
Not only does not giving undocumented or in process immigrants hurt our economy and
workforce, we are also hurting the image of an entire culture. But keeping undocumented
immigrants from being educated, we could be keeping an entire immigrating culture uneducated,
which lowers our perceptions of that culture. Even if children of undocumented immigrants gain

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citizenship, they are still less likely to get a college education because they were raised by
uneducated parents. This lowers their aspirations and goals (Menjivar, 2008).
One who is opposed to undocumented may say that those students should go back to their
home countries to obtain a higher education. But according to the Migration Policy Institute
(2015), over 700,000 of these undocumented immigrants only speak English. This means that
the American culture may be the only culture that they know. They have assimilated to this
culture and it would be unjust to force them out to assimilate to a new culture just to get an
education. This could also limit their job seeking abilities back in the United States.
According to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (NCSL, 2015),
not helping those who need aid to get an education will increase the cost of state welfare systems
as well as state prisons. It would seem that those who are uneducated are more likely to commit
crimes and unable to obtain well-paying jobs which causes an increase in welfare. It would be in
the benefit of all Americans if there were aid and access to college education for all.
In contrast, although the United States is built on the cultural differences and similarities
of diverse people, a shared cultural value among Americans, illegal immigration is against the
law and allowing illegal college students to break it encourages criminal actions and diminishes
the cultural values of America. There is an American legal process to maintain order and fairness
and it is not fair to the legal students.
Funding education for illegal students impacts funding for legal students, some of which
could go towards student aid with no interest, like grants and scholarships. On average, 12
million students each take out $24,301 in student loan debt (Statistic, 2013). It usually takes
students 10 years or 120 months to pay off their loans (Consumer, 2012). One in ten students

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default on their loans (Berman, 2013) and have at least one past due loan (Statistic, 2013). The
total of student debt from loans in 2012 was $1.1 trillion dollars (Berman, 2013) and $655 billion
is the amount of money that was owed specifically to the Department of Education (Hill, 2011).
Allowing illegal students to attend college creates unfair consequences on U.S. citizens
and legal immigrants. The unemployment rate for college graduates in 2012 was 53 percent
(Weissmann, 2012). This means that more than half of legal students have college degrees but
cannot access employment. Allowing illegal students to obtain college degrees puts legal
students in competition for jobs.
Allowing illegal students to get governmental funding for higher education adds to the
enormous amount of funding, resources and services that are being spent on illegal immigrants.
Federal, state, and local governments spend $113 billion each year (Martin, 2010). This funding
includes education, healthcare, welfare, and incarceration. This massive amount of funding is
paid for by American and legal immigrant tax payers.
Given that there are two strong perspectives to this issue, some compromises need to be
made. One suggestion could be to have more concrete levels of the legalization process. There
may be illegals here that have no interest in becoming citizens and giving them an education
would not benefit the country. Therefore the U.S. should focus on those who are not citizens but
in the process to be a citizen. There should also be guidelines to obtaining government aid for
secondary education. One could be that you have to had graduated from high school in the states,
or that the person would have had to be in the states for a number of years before applying. Since
there can be benefits to everyone having an education, the U.S. government should be doing
whatever they can take make it simpler to define status.

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References

Berman, J. Huffington Post, (2013). 12 Student loan debt numbers that will blow your mind.
Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/11/studentloan-debt-numbers_n_3053290.html
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, (2012). How long does it take to pay off?
Federal student loans, (Date Unknown). Retrieved from
http://www.consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb/597/how-long-does-it-take-pay-federalstudent-loans.html
Hill, J., (2011). Our view: Student loans on taxpayers’ tab. USA Today. Retrieved from
http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2011-05-23-Student-loans-ontaxpayers-tab_n.htm
Martin, J and Ruark, E.A., (2010). The fiscal burden of illegal immigration in U.S. taxpayers
Federation for American Immigration Reform. Retrieved from
http://www.fairus.org/publications/the-fiscal-burden-of-illegal-immigration-on-u-staxpayers
Menjivar, C., (2008) Educational Hopes, Documented Dreams: Guatemalan and Salvadoran
Immigrants’ Legality and Educational Prospects. The ANNALS of the American Academy
of Political and Social Science, vol. 620 no. 1 177-193.
National Conference of State Legislator (NCSL) (2015) Undocumented Student Tuition:
Overview. Retrieved April 5, 2015 from
http://www.ncsl.org/research/education/undocumented-student-tuition-overview.aspx.
Roberts, J. (2011). Education equals success, President Barack Obama tells Booker T.
Washington High School graduates. Retrieved April 6, 2015, from
http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/local-news/inspiration-underdogs-no-more
Statistic Brain, (2013). Student loan debt statistics. Retrieved from
http://www.statisticbrain.com/student_loan_debt_statistics/
Weissmann, J., (2012). 53% of recent grads are jobless or underemployed—how? The Atlantic.
http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/04/53-of-recent-college-grads-arejobless-or-underemployed-how/256237/

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