Reflections of Higher Education and Immigration: African Immigrants in the U.S.

by Susan Ogwal / Dec 16, 2019

Due to the 1990 Diversity Lottery Act and various migration factors such as civil war conflict and family reunification, doors have opened for many college-educated and highly skilled immigrants to enter the U.S. In particular, the number of African- and Asian-born immigrants has increased tremendously.

Most recently, undocumented immigrants have been a hot-button topic. However, despite migration and policy challenges, the U.S. immigrant population continues to grow. One group that is rarely heard about is Black, African immigrants.

According to a January 2018 New American Economy report and the Pew Research Center, sub-Saharan African immigrants doubled in population between 2010 to 2015 and have the highest level of education among all immigrant groups, in addition to the U.S. native-born population. 

Given these numbers, there is no doubt education plays a significant role in the personal development and transitional needs of U.S. immigrants. Moreover, it is not a surprise that as our local, national, and international communities expand, we will encounter many immigrants who have attained educated backgrounds in our classrooms and campuses.

Based on October 2015 reports from the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU), immigrants attend universities at a 20% rate while a bit more (24%) attend community colleges. Additional AACU information reveals that community colleges provide an especially welcoming space since they are more financially affordable, provide short-term training programs that help make employment transition easier, have English as a second language capacities, and contain flexible classroom hours for working parents.

While these numbers and accompanying information give higher education and immigration a positive outlook, this topic will continue to be a trending and contested area of notice as we near the upcoming U.S. Census count and presidential election.

I then ask, as members of the academy, that we reflect deeper about our campuses and classrooms and how they will be impacted. As we keep making efforts to accommodate new student learners from all walks of life, let us also think critically about who they are and how they enrich our lives and spaces with the knowledge they already have. Let us remain vigilant in not forgetting that education has been, and can be, a powerful role in each of our lives no matter where we come from. 


Characteristics of immigrants in America (AAC&U News)

Sub-Saharan African immigrants in the United States (Migration Policy Institute)

6 key findings about black immigration to the U.S. (Pew Research Center)

Sub-Saharan African immigrants in the U.S. are often more educated than those in top European destinations (Pew Research Center)

How sub-Saharan Africans contribute to the U.S. economy (New American Economy)

Trump's reported "s***hole countries" comments are racist, UN says. (2018)., 1.