This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Regional Sociopolitical Values and Postsecondary Opportunities for Undocumented Students




Rowe, Curtis

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


The United States is home to 45 million foreign-born inhabitants, including naturalized citizens, resident aliens, visa holders, and undocumented immigrants with and without DACA authorization (U.S. Census Bureau, 2019). Safeguarded by Plyler v. Doe (1982), nearly 65,000 undocumented students finish high school each year (Eusebio & Mendoza, 2015). As adults, this group contends with the limitations of their undocumented immigrant status while navigating paths to secure a future in the country they have known since childhood (APA, 2013). Determinants such as the age of arrival, country of origin, and subnational legislation either restrict their postsecondary options and future well-being or expand their pursuit of higher education to parallel the accomplishments of their documented peers (Batalova et al., 2014). This study’s framework originates from an empathic examination of agency or self-determination and the transactions between undocumented students and institutional agents or gatekeepers (see Murillo, 2017). These institutional agents appear as the mentors and authority figures who regulate the emotional, financial, and legal resources necessary to bring undocumented students into the fold of higher education successfully (Murillo, 2017). Despite being deemed ineligible for DACA due to interruptions in residency or sidelined by the provisional legitimacy of the program, many undocumented students are permitted to attend public, postsecondary institutions operating independently from the federal government in multiple states (Mwangi et al., 2019). Regional political beliefs concerning controversial issues such as immigration continue to influence subnational legislation toward the undocumented population (see Davidai & Ongis, 2019). Authorization and funding for undocumented students to attend public universities, vocational schools, and adult education programs originate from state and local legislation backed by constituents informed by divergent sociopolitical principles (see Garibay et al., 2015). This study examines the relationship between nonfederal enrollment, tuition, and financial aid policies for undocumented postsecondary students outlined by the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration (PAHEI, 2021) and concurrent state-level political ideologies reported by Gallup (Jones, 2019). In addition, this study explores the relationship between the state-level enrollment figures for undocumented postsecondary students published by the Migration Policy Institute (Zong et al., 2017) and data gathered by Gallup’s Survey of American Political Ideology by State (Jones, 2019).