NC Budget and Tax Center

Lessons from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals make clear need for changes to NC education policies

A new report from the Migration Policy Institute, Lessons from the Local Level: DACA’s Implementation and Impact on Education and Training Success, finds that both educational attainment for immigrants who arrived as children and achievement of broader economic benefits resulting from their increased earnings, participation in the labor force and payment of taxes are dependent on state policy in the K-12, post-secondary and adult education arena.

State policies that support DACA youth with the financial resources, student supports and relevant training programs for career success have been effective at increasing DACA youth enrollment in post-secondary education and increased students returning to high school or GED programs.

From the report here are a few relevant findings for North Carolina:

  • Dropout prevention and recovery programs are important and sometimes underutilized strategies for supporting DACA youth with gaps in their education. For example in Texas, a unique state law allows students to remain in high school up to age 26; many school districts have taken advantage of this policy to create alternative high schools with flexible scheduling and wraparound support services that can be helpful to unauthorized immigrant youth.
  • In-state tuition laws have the potential to increase college-going and completion rates among DACA youth. Beyond in-state tuition, policies offering state financial aid, scholarships, loans and other cost-saving measures for DACA youth represent significant steps toward leveling the playing field.
  • Accelerated, content-based approaches to English remediation provide an important on-ramp to college-level work. Innovative efforts to reduce the time and cost of college-level English as a Second Language instruction, such as the City University of New York Language Immersion Program, can help DACA youth make a quicker and smoother transition to postsecondary education.
  • Career-focused programs provide an important alternative to traditional adult education courses and may have more success in engaging harder-to-reach members of the DACA population: those who are older and have gaps in their education.

North Carolina has failed to adopt many of the policies that would ensure the state is benefiting from the DACA program. Such policies, like in-state tuition and aligned basic education and ESL programs with career training, are low-cost and good for DACA youth as well as the broader North Carolina public. In-state tuition has been proven to increase enrollment rates not just of undocumented youth but also their U.S.-born peers as their cohorts can share in a goal of pursuing post-secondary education. Moreover, the alignment of basic skills training with industry credential attainment has been proven to increase the completion rates of participants and the value of their education in the marketplace. Ensuring that young immigrants in North Carolina can participate in these programs will increase the pool of workers credentialed for growing industries in the state.

North Carolina policymakers should heed the growing evidence from best practices across the country and adopt in-state tuition policies and focus funding on programs that align basic skills and industry credential preparation.

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