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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

UNC Study Brings Awareness to Overlooked Immigration Issues Related to Higher Education

In a recent study, University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health researchers investigated how youth in North Carolina can be “locked out” of educational opportunities through complicated immigration policy.

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[Photo: A UNC study found that complicated immigration policy results in four-year public university education being unaffordable for undocumented youth reared in North Carolina. Photo by Ben Seidelman]

According to the Migration Policy Institute, more than 2.3 million undocumented youth in the United States are eligible to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA is a complex immigration status issued through an executive action by President Obama after comprehensive immigration reform failed to pass in Congress.

The status protects youth from deportation but does not guarantee them legal residency. Youth covered by the policy are not eligible for federal financial aid to attend college and, in N.C., DACA recipients are not eligible for in-state tuition. They often are charged international student rates based on the policies of individual institutions; in practice, this means that four-year public university education is unaffordable for many young people who were raised in the state.

To explore the realities of DACA, researchers collaborated with youth living under the policy in N.C. Study co-authors associated with the Gillings School include Ms. Kashika Sahay, a fourth-year doctoral student in the department of maternal and child health and five-year fellow in the UNC Graduate School’s Royster Society of Fellows, Ms. Kari Thatcher, alumna of the department of health behavior, and Dr. Alexandra Lightfoot, research assistant professor of health behavior. These investigators worked with Mr. Cruz Núñez, a community partner at the Center for Youth in Carrboro, N.C, to document their research.

Their findings, “‘It’s Like We Are Legally, Illegal’: Latino/a Youth Emphasize Barriers to Higher Education Using Photovoice,” were published online in the fall 2016 issue of the High School Journal (HSJ). HSJ is a peer-reviewed education journal published by The University of North Carolina Press.

“We decided to publish in an education journal because our findings are especially important for teachers who want to see students pursue higher education,” said Ms. Sahay, a study co-author. “We wanted to reach out to the most appropriate audience, because we think the paper is extremely relevant to future immigration reform.”

Read more: https://sph.unc.edu/sph-news/new-study-brings-awareness-to-overlooked-immigration-issues-around-higher-education/