What’s going on and what does it mean?

Discussions and legislation around immigration are nothing new for our country – or other countries, but changes in immigration laws, regulation and enforcement have distinct impacts on institutions of higher education. As colleges and universities continue to seek and foster research and talent development opportunities across the globe, it is critical to understand the changes in status and regulations and how they affect our students, faculty and staff. Here’s some background to help contextualize these continued conversations:

Population snapshot:

Here’s a snapshot of the international makeup of our campus, the UNC System, our county, state and nation.

Appalachian & the UNC System:


of Appalachian students come from foreign countries

(Source: UNC-GA, 2015 data)


International students currently enrolled at Appalachian

(source: IRAP, 2016 data)

Less than 100th of 1%

of Appalachian’s student body come from the countries identified in the March 6 Executive Order


Percentage of students in the UNC System that come from foreign countries

(source: UNC-GA, 2015 data)

Beyond Appalachian:


of Watauga County residents are immigrants, up from 1.9 percent in 2000.

source: North Carolina Justice Center, 2011 data


of immigrants in Watauga County are naturalized citizens and able to vote and engage in the policymaking process

source: North Carolina Justice Center, 2011 data (PDF)


of North Carolina’s population are immigrants

source: American Immigration Council, 2015 data


of immigrants (or 239,232 people) in North Carolina are naturalized U.S. citizens, meaning they are eligible to vote

source: American Immigration Council, 2013 data


of North Carolina’s population (or 350,000 people) are unauthorized immigrants

source: Pew Hispanic Center, 2012 data (PDF)


of America’s population, or 42.2 million people, are immigrants

source: Pew Research Center, 2014 data

The national level

Within his first six weeks as president of the United States, Donald J. Trump issued three executive orders related to immigrants to the U.S. Most-discussed as related to higher education have been the two versions of “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” When first issued in Jan. 2017, members of college and university communities across the country began asking questions – for which there were not abundantly clear answers. Questions continue and institutions of higher education are turning to one another, to their leadership and to their own faculty and staff for information and guidance in navigating an uncertain, changing, and for some an unsettling landscape.

Read the executive orders here:

On Sept. 5, 2017 the White House and the Justice Department announced an end to a program established in 2012 by President Obama called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA. The program was designed as a way to allow children of immigrants who entered the country illegally to have legal access to education, to work and to obtain driver's licenses and social security numbers. There are many restrictions to this access, but a simplified explanation of the act is that it provides these children and young adults with the same level of access to opportunity as their peers who hold legal status in the U.S. These children and young adults are also referred to as “Dreamers,” a reference to the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which was introduced in Congress in 2001, but never passed.

The Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches continue to work through the issues covered under the DACA program.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website provides information about what DACA is, what has changed, and the application and renewal process. It also has archived information, including previous DACA updates, here.

Below is an explanation of what “Deferred action” means, from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website:
Deferred action is a discretionary determination to defer a removal action of an individual as an act of prosecutorial discretion. For purposes of future inadmissibility based upon unlawful presence, an individual whose case has been deferred is not considered to be unlawfully present during the period in which deferred action is in effect. An individual who has received deferred action is authorized by DHS to be present in the United States, and is therefore considered by DHS to be lawfully present during the period deferred action is in effect. However, deferred action does not confer lawful status upon an individual, nor does it excuse any previous or subsequent periods of unlawful presence.

Under existing regulations, an individual whose case has been deferred is eligible to receive employment authorization for the period of deferred action, provided he or she can demonstrate “an economic necessity for employment.” DHS can terminate or renew deferred action at any time, at the agency’s discretion.

Read more information

The state level

At the state level, the North Carolina legislature is reviewing Senate Bill 145. This bill, entitled “An Act To Create Additional Incentives For Local Governments To Comply With State Laws Related To Immigration, To Prohibit UNC Constituent Institutions From Becoming Sanctuary Universities, And To Direct The Department Of Public Safety To Enter Into A Memorandum Of Agreement With The Department Of Homeland Security,” was filed on March 3, 2017. It has been referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate, and includes language that would withhold state funds from any university that does not comply with existing Federal law. View the bill here.

By and large, state institutions were created by state governments to increase access to education for their residents, and state governments have a lot of say in how state institutions are run, from regulating how they can spend their money to the specifics of pay structure and employment benefits of university employees.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, however, has joined a lawsuit challenging the legality of President Trump’s plan to end DACA. According to the Raleigh News & Observer, the suit seeks to block the government from using any “information provided by DACA applicants and recipients to identify, apprehend, detain, or deport any of them or their family members.”

Read the full Raleigh News & Observer news story

Additionally, the Raleigh News & Observer reports that 27,000 North Carolina residents are recipients of DACA benefits.

What this means for colleges – public and private:

Public institutions educate nearly 70% of all U.S. college students, and state funds pay for most of the operations costs. Because the cost of college is subsidized by the state, tuition costs are lower than for private colleges; thus state residents pay significantly less in tuition costs. This is also why states employ boards and trustees to oversee university operations. Federal funding comes to public universities largely in the form of student financial aid and research grants.

Overall, institutions of higher education have felt the sting of reduction in state and federal funding, especially since the Great Recession. Nevertheless, even though appropriations per student remain lower in 45 U.S. states than they were in 2008, the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO), which publishes an annual State Higher Education Finance (SHEF) report that shows state and local governments provided nearly $91 billion in FY 2015 to support higher education — an increase of more than $4 billion from the FY 2014 level. In a news release published in April 2016, SHEEO’s treasurer notes that states provided nearly $9.3 billion in student financial aid in 2015.

Clearly, threats to reduce funding to colleges and universities are real, and loss of funding would have significant, across-the-board impact.

View the full FY 2015 SHEF report.

The legal and financial picture for Appalachian State University:

Appalachian employees cannot willfully violate state or federal law and remain employed with the state of North Carolina. And while it would take a herculean endeavor to pull back federal and state funds from Appalachian, losing this funding would have a devastating effect on our student body.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System financial report published by Appalachian's Institutional Research, Assessment and Planning office shows that in the 2015-16 fiscal year, state funds made up 34% of the university’s annual revenues, and the largest single source of revenue in Appalachian’s budget. This works out to be $133,764,390 or just over $7,700 per full-time equivalent student. The second largest source of revenue is tuition, which accounts for about 30% or $114,819,207 of the budget.

The majority of Appalachian students’ financial aid comes from federal funds, with 48% of full-time undergraduates receiving some kind of need-based financial aid. The average need-based scholarship or grant award is $8,238.

Appalachian administrators cannot refuse to comply with direct orders from federal or state agencies without jeopardizing the future of the institution. But that does not mean they cannot protect the safety of international and immigrant students, faculty and staff. See "What CAN Appalachian do?" for more information.

Academia’s response

Across the country, many college presidents issued or released statements about the President’s Jan. 27, 2017 executive order. The Association of Public Land-grant Universities has published a list of responses, which includes responses from some UNC System institutions, and shows a range of responses. Consistent among them, however, are concern about the potential impact on their institutions and support for international and immigrant populations among their communities.

Additionally, throughout 2017, many academics and academic institutions have joined collective efforts to express concern about the sentiment and possible repercussions of both the Jan. 27 and revised March 6 orders. Appalachian has joined in signing two of these letters – one to Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly on Feb. 3 and one to President Trump on March 15.

Read The Association of American Colleges & Universities statement in response to the Sept. 5, 2017 White House DACA announcement.

Here’s where you can find the public statements Appalachian’s Chancellor, Dr. Sheri Everts, has made to the Appalachian Community:

Public statements from University of North Carolina System President Margaret Spellings