In 2019-20, full-time undergraduate students received an average of $14,940 in financial aid. Graduate students received an average of $27,310, about 30% of which came from federal grants, according to CollegeBoard. The availability of financial aid for undocumented students, however, is 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 their education, these students 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 seven states offer state-funded financial aid for undocumented students. Learners can also pursue private scholarships and loans, which may feature less restrictive policies and requirements. Additionally, some schools may allow students to sign up for payment plans, and some employers offer tuition remission for learners with work authorization.
Even though undocumented learners have assurances under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, they should only reveal personal information on applications if they feel secure and protected.
State-By-State Financial Aid Access
Acording to TheDream.Us, only Alabama and South Carolina completely restrict admission for undocumented students at public colleges and universities, though many other states put barriers in place. For example, at least nine states charge undocumented students out-of-state tuition rates even if they reside in the state.
Nevertheless, about 20 states do try and accommodate undocumented applicants, either by honoring in-state tuition rates for residents or by offering financial aid. These policies typically require applicants to have attended high school in the state.
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’s BigFuture: 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.