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Topics / Immigration

Why the Health of Our Higher Education System Depends on the Children of Immigrants

Marcelo Suárez-Orozco explains why the success of first-generation Americans is a success for everyone

While higher education is facing pandemic-related financial, engagement, and teaching challenges, a less visible crisis stems from a slow but steady decline in U.S. births, which hit a 30-year low in 2019. Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, current chancellor of the University of Massachusetts, a trustee of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and a 2018 Great Immigrant Great American honoree, sees a solution to this long-term disruption in higher education: the children of immigrants.

In a recent essay published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Suárez-Orozco highlights the growth of U.S.–born adults with immigrant parents as the fastest growing sector of the U.S. college population and the labor force — despite the income disparities and systemic racism many of these students and their families face. Suárez-Orozco cites a new study by Migration Policy Institute, a Corporation grantee, that shows that the children of immigrants account for 28 percent of all college students in the U.S. He also highlights a study by the National Research Council, another Corporation grantee, that describes the full integration of immigrants and their children as essential to our economic vitality and culture.

“If the 20th century was the era of mass migrations, the 21st will be the century of the children of immigrants,” Suárez-Orozco writes. “In helping them integrate, our higher education system and all that it touches will be the better for it.”

Top: Sharai Conde (right) hugs her cousin Stephanie Cruz. Conde is an 18-year-old first-generation college student, and the daughter of Mexican immigrants. (Credit: AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)