Financial Aid for Undocumented Students
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In 2021-2022, full-time undergraduate students received an average of $15,330 in financial aid, according to The College Board. Graduate students received an average of $27,300. However, financial aid options for undocumented students are much more limited.
Despite the fact that many of these learners face great financial challenges, undocumented and DACA students do not qualify for federal funding. To fund your education, you'll need to pursue other pathways, such as state funding and private scholarships.
Can Undocumented Students Receive Financial Aid?
Undocumented students cannot access federal financial aid, but state funding may be available.
At least 18 states offer state-funded financial aid for undocumented students, according to the Higher Ed Immigration Portal. You can also pursue private scholarships and loans, which may feature less restrictive policies and requirements. Additionally, some schools may allow you to sign up for a payment plan, and if you have work authorization, some employers will help pay for your tuition.
Even though undocumented learners have assurances under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, only reveal personal information on applications if you feel secure and protected.
State-By-State Financial Aid Access
According to the Higher Ed Immigration Portal, each state has its own set of policies on whether undocumented students have complete, partial, or no access to state funding for higher education.
- 18 states and Washington D.C. provide comprehensive access to in-state tuition and state financial aid for undocumented students.
- The remaining states provide varying degrees of access, including state aid limited to DACA students, no state policy, and completely prohibitive access.
|Comprehensive Access||Accessible||Limited||Limited to DACA||No State Policy||Restrictive||Prohibitive Enrollment|
- Comprehensive Access: Statewide access to in-state tuition and some state financial aid or scholarships for all undocumented students who are residents of the state.
- Accessible: Statewide access to in-state tuition for all undocumented students who are residents of the state.
- Limited: Access to in-state or reduced tuition for all undocumented students who are residents of the state in at least some public institutions.
- Limited to DACA: The state's DACA recipients have access to at least some public institutions.
- No State Policy: No known policies on access to in-state tuition or state financial aid for the state's undocumented students, including DACA recipients.
- Restrictive: Undocumented students, including DACA recipients, are barred from accessing in-state tuition or state financial aid.
- Prohibitive Enrollment: Undocumented students, including DACA recipients, are barred from enrolling at all or certain public institutions, and barred from accessing in-state tuition or state financial aid.
According to the National Immigrant Law Center, no federal laws prevent states from offering in-state tuition rates to undocumented learners as long as they offer the same options for other students.
Financial Assistance for Undocumented Students
Scholarships provide some of the best pathways to financial aid for undocumented students. These awards may come from private sources, schools, or state funding in regions that accept and protect the rights of undocumented immigrants. Scholarships for undocumented students typically require applicants to submit transcripts, resumes, and essays.
Though similar, grants and scholarships often differ in terms of requirements related to financial need. Grants frequently target individuals from low-income households. In states that offer them financial aid, undocumented students may need to prove their eligibility by revealing their financial status. Prospective applicants should consider speaking with a financial aid advisor before applying to a school.
With no federal financial aid available for undocumented students, college loans may be a student's only option. However, since private loans often require credit scores, many undocumented applicants may not qualify. Nevertheless, some lenders offer specialized options. Additionally, some states offer access to DACA student loans, although these could require immigration documentation and co-signers in the U.S.
While undocumented students cannot participate in federal work-study programs, some schools offer similar programs using state or private funding. Typically, applicants need to demonstrate financial need to qualify, so providing personal financial information may be required. Some programs may only accept DACA students with proper documentation.
Financial Aid Resources for Undocumented Students
- TheDream.Us: TheDream.Us supports undocumented and DACA students in their quest for higher education and legal status. The organization offers scholarships and provides resources on financial aid and college access programs.
- The College Board: The College Board offers various resources for undocumented students regarding college applications and financial aid.
- National Immigration Law Center: Fighting for immigrant rights, NILC offers information and resources for DACA and undocumented students attending college and pursuing financial aid.
- Immigrant Legal Resource Center: The ILRC provides support and resources to immigrants in various areas. It also runs advocacy and community campaigns to raise awareness and advance immigrant rights.
- FinAid: FinAid offers information on financial aid in general, including details on scholarships and loans. It also provides resources for undocumented students.
- My Undocumented Life: Through My Undocumented Life, visitors can find information on scholarships and financial aid for undocumented students, along with application information and other resources.
- 10,000 Degrees Outside: 10,000 Degrees Outside supports students from low-income backgrounds, including undocumented learners. It helps connect visitors to scholarships and offers information on college applications and support programs.
- Informed Immigrant: Informed Immigrant provides resources regarding immigrant rights. It connects undocumented immigrants with relevant information and professional support.
Frequently Asked Questions About Financial Aid for Undocumented Students
How can undocumented students pay for college?
Financial aid for undocumented students may be more difficult to find than for other learners, but there are several options. Prospective students may be able to apply for state funding in certain locations, as well as payment plans, work-study programs, and private loans. They can also qualify for various scholarships or ask their employer about tuition remission.
Can you fill out the FAFSA if you don't have a Social Security number?
No. Students cannot fill out the FAFSA without a Social Security number. DACA students with a Social Security number may create an ID and proceed with the application. Though they still will not qualify for federal funding, they may receive state funding in some cases.
Can DACA students fill out the FAFSA?
DACA students who have a Social Security number may submit the FAFSA, but they will not qualify for federal student aid. However, in some cases, DACA applicants may receive state aid; they should check with their guidance counselor or advisor to determine if filling out this form is worthwhile.
Can a student with undocumented parents fill out the FAFSA?
Yes. Students with undocumented parents can submit the FAFSA since only the applicant needs a Social Security number. However, students may need to divulge their parents' or guardians' financial information to qualify for certain forms of funding.
Can undocumented students qualify for student loans?
Yes. While undocumented students cannot qualify for federal student loans, they can qualify for various other types of loans. For example, some state funding programs may be available, and they can often access student loans from private lenders.