DACA plus college degree a formula for financial success: Survey

Dreamers with a college degree and a work permit are outearning their parents and achieving social mobility in a wide array of professions, according to a new survey by TheDream.us and Golden Door Scholars.

The survey polled more than 2,000 alumni of a scholarship program run by the two organizations, following up on a similar 2022 one that found a 94 percent workforce participation rate among graduates of the program.

The new survey found that 66 percent of respondents are the first in their family to attend college; 63 percent are outearning their parents combined, compared to 50 percent in 2022; homeownership has risen to 14 percent from 10 percent two years ago; and 26 percent of respondents are the primary providers in their families, compared with 22 percent in 2022.

“The survey report illustrates a critical truth: when given the opportunity, Dreamers not only succeed — they excel. At Golden Door Scholars, we are committed to turning the dreams of undocumented students into tangible successes,” Golden Door Scholars CEO Lisa Shasky said.

The scholarship caters mainly to Dreamers, immigrants living illegally in the U.S. who arrived in the United States as minors, whether they have work status through programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or not.

The typical survey participant is 26 years old and arrived in the United States at age 4.

DACA beneficiaries make up 76 percent of the survey’s respondents. Eleven percent are permanent residents, 8 percent are undocumented, 3 percent are beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status and 2 percent have another status.

The survey found drastic differences in outcomes for Dreamers with work authorization and those without.

Of the respondents with work authorization, 93 percent said they are currently working, and 7 percent said they are looking for work; only 69 percent of respondents without work authorization said they are currently working, and 31 percent said they are looking.

Though the number of program participants without work authorization is relatively low, it has nearly tripled to 8 percent of respondents, from 3 percent in 2022.

And with DACA’s legality up in the air, a majority of the scholarship program’s graduates are worried they could get sidetracked in their careers.

A broad majority — 96 percent — of alumni said they felt some level of anxiety over their immigration status in the past year, and 59 percent said losing work authorization is their biggest professional concern.

“Despite the demonstrated successes of DACA and other opportunities for Dreamers in unleashing their potential, many of our Alumni are anxious about their futures or unable to put their degrees to work. Undoubtedly, many of their employers share in this anxiety, knowing that the future of valued employees’ work authorization remains uncertain,” said Gaby Pacheco, president of TheDream.us.

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