Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


International Studies (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Bryan Page

Second Committee Member

Ambler Moss

Third Committee Member

Bradford McGuinn


The Federal government is the primary level of government controlling immigration. Yet, the rapid growth of the immigrant population, documented and undocumented, in the United States and the Federal government’s inability to pass immigration reform has forced states and local governing bodies to pass their own immigration policies. Conflicting perspectives on the recent influx of immigrants have made immigration a controversial topic in the United States. Such divergent perspectives have also generated concerns regarding access to federally funded resources for undocumented immigrants, particularly higher education, defined as education beyond the secondary level, such as college or university. The goal of this study is to establish a greater understanding regarding variations of higher education policy implementation for undocumented students among the states in the United States. This thesis seeks to analyze the ways in which the following five independent variables affect state permissiveness of post-secondary education toward undocumented students: state partisanship; immigrant population per state (documented and undocumented); state proximity to the Mexican border; state access to welfare and social benefits; and the role of immigrant lobbying and advocacy groups. The case studies and ordinal logistic regression models found there is a relationship between the race/ ethnicity of the state’s population, partisanship association, and economic health on the implementation of immigration policies relate to education. The cultural history and its effects on the cultural makeup of the state proved to not only be significant to the demographics of the state’s population, but on the makeup of the state’s political officials. There was also a significant relationship between the cultural background of the state and immigration policy sentiments of the existing immigrant populations. Further studies will allow for better understanding on the debates about the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion of undocumented students in the United States’ education system and discover ways to improve higher education access for undocumented students.


unauthorized immigrant; undocumented immigrant; undocumented student; post-secondary education