Biden Plan Would Expand Financial Aid Programs to Noncitizens

A new proposal aims to expand TRIO program eligibility to all who attended high school in the U.S., regardless of citizenship status.
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Matthew Arrojas is a news reporter at BestColleges covering higher education issues and policy. He previously worked as the hospitality and tourism news reporter at the South Florida Business Journal. He also covered higher education policy issues as...
Published on January 5, 2024
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  • Federal TRIO programs assist historically underrepresented students through their college journey.
  • These programs only apply to U.S. citizens, residents, or those on the path to becoming permanent residents.
  • President Joe Biden's administration is looking to expand eligibility to noncitizens who attend high school in the U.S.
  • The proposal must first pass through negotiated rulemaking.

President Joe Biden has proposed expanding federal financial aid programs to noncitizens who attended high school in the U.S.

Federal TRIO programs are the federal government's primary means of providing financial aid to historically underrepresented students attending colleges and universities in the U.S. TRIO programs are currently only open to U.S. citizens, residents, and those on the path to becom as ing permanent residents. But the Department of Education (ED) is in the process of expanding eligibility to anybody who attended or plans to attend high school in the U.S.

ED's proposal would impact the following TRIO programs:

  • Talent Search
  • Educational Opportunity Centers
  • Upward Bound

ED will first discuss this proposal with a committee of higher education stakeholders in January, February, and March through the negotiated rulemaking process. Committee members will then vote on a final proposal in March, and if members approve the plan with unanimous consent, ED will move to finalize the plan by November.

The department will likely aim for the rule to go into effect in time for the 2025-26 academic year.

If approved, this may be a significant expansion of TRIO eligibility.

According to the Council for Opportunity in Education, TRIO programs serve more than 880,000 low-income students in the U.S.

There are an estimated 400,000 undocumented students attending college in the U.S. currently, according to the Higher Ed Immigration Portal. While not all 400,000 would qualify for TRIO through the proposed expansion, it promises to cover a significant number of students previously unable to access federal financial aid.