In May, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Hartford to discuss the importance of college readiness, access and affordability. Several state and local education and political leaders accompanied Secretary Duncan on his visit to the University of Hartford campus. While Duncan's message was noteworthy, it highlighted an irony that exists with the presence of discriminatory federal and state higher education policies that preclude greater college access for undocumented students.
In 2007, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that more than 2 million undocumented students were enrolled in the kindergarten through 12th grade education system nationally. The 1982 Supreme Court decision in Plyler v. Doe guarantees free K-12 education to all students, regardless of their immigration status. Many undocumented students find, however, their educational journeys end after high school graduation.
In 2009, the Pew Hispanic Center estimated that a mere 25 percent of undocumented immigrants enroll in college, compared with 53 percent of documented immigrants and 62 percent of those born in the United States. Some higher education scholars say the ineligibility of undocumented immigrants for higher education benefits is a factor in the low number enrolling in college.